By Bill Stansbeary
The National Business Aviation Association held its 60th Annual Meeting and Convention in Atlanta on Sept. 25-27. More than 30,000 people attended the convention, held jointly at the Georgia World Congress Center, with 1,100 exhibitors, and at Fulton County Airport/Brown Field (FTY), with more than 100 aircraft on static display. “Helping business take flight” was the theme.
Celebrating the past, present and future
Ed Bolen, NBAA president and CEO, hosted the official opening, commenting that the event was “an opportunity to celebrate the past, present and future” of business aviation.
The session featured keynote speakers beginning with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, and including two well-known aviation enthusiasts, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and Jimmy W. Hayes, Cox Enterprises president and COO.
Hayes oversees a flight department operated in support of Cox’ global operations. He spoke about how he came to be passionate about aviation while learning to fly as a young man in Georgia.
Perdue covered general aviation facts about Georgia. He revealed that the state has the eighth-largest GA industry in the U.S., with 83,000 people employed in more than 500 aerospace and aviation companies, 262 privately owned airports and 207 public airports, including the nation’s busiest, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The governor congratulated Cessna for its $24 million expansion at its facility in Columbus and Gulfstream for its planned $400 million investment, expected to bring another 1,100 jobs to Savannah.
Bolen paid tribute to the GA community’s storied history, including the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Georgia. He recognized Pat Epps, a legendary Georgia aviator, whose father, Ben Epps, built and piloted the first powered aircraft in Georgia in 1907. He also acknowledged 23-year-old Jamail Larkins, a Georgia pilot who developed his enthusiasm for aviation as a child and is now a youth ambassador for the Federal Aviation Association.
Epps and Larkin, among others, participated in a symbolic flight from New York to Atlanta aboard a very light jet on Sept. 22.
Each year, NBAA acknowledges various award winners. This year, those honored included E. Patrick “Pat” Epps, the recipient of the 2007 NBAA John P. “Jack” Doswell Award, granted for lifelong individual achievement on behalf of and in support of the aims, goals and objectives of business aviation.
Pat Epps was 3 years old when his father died in an airplane crash. Despite that tragedy, Epps and his five brothers and one of three sisters went on to receive their pilot’s licenses. Epps has more than 9,000 flying hours as a commercial pilot, with type ratings in the North American B-25 Mitchell, Douglas DC-3, Learjet and Cessna Citation.
His first job in the aviation industry was as a flight test engineer for Boeing on the prototype of what would become the 707, the nation’s first jet airliner. In 1957, he joined the Air Force and began flight training, graduating with distinction in Class 58L and becoming the fifth of Ben Epps’ sons to serve as a military pilot.
Following his military service, Epps became a Mooney Aircraft dealer. In 1965, he opened Epps Air Service. Based at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) in Atlanta, the company is among the top 10 independent fixed base operations in the U.S.
Epps, a tireless supporter of GA aviation, opens his hangars for fundraisers and community events and is an avid backer of Angel Flight and the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Ga. As co-leader of the Greenland Expedition Society team, he helped recover a Lockheed P-38 Lightning (one of several WWII planes forced to make a harrowing icecap landing in Greenland) from where it had been buried under 265 feet of ice since 1942. Pat and Ann Epps have three children, all of whom have their pilot’s licenses and work in the family business.
Bryan Moss, president emeritus of Gulfstream, received the 2007 NBAA Meritorious Service to Aviation Award, recognizing more than 40 years in the aviation industry. Born in Greenville, Penn., Moss became enamored with aviation while visiting Air Force bases where a favorite uncle served in the Air Force. He was fascinated with all types of aircraft but had a special fondness for fighter jets and transports.
He began his aviation career at Lockheed-Georgia Company in 1966, and in the following decade worked as a sales manager for various Lockheed aircraft, including the JetStar. He joined Canadair as a sales manager in 1979, and subsequently held several positions associated with the Canadair Challenger, culminating with his appointment as president of the Challenger Division, Canadair Group of Bombardier Inc., in 1989. By 1992, he was named president of the Business Aircraft Division of Bombardier Aerospace Group.
Moss joined Gulfstream Aerospace as vice chairman in 1995. He later served a four-year appointment as both president of the company and executive vice president of the General Dynamics Aerospace Group. He became president emeritus of Gulfstream Aerospace in April 2007.
During his tenure at Gulfstream, the company grew from two aircraft models to the six current models, and from five to 12 company locations, including a service center in the United Kingdom. In 1995, Gulfstream had 4,300 employees; today, nearly 8,800 employees wear either a Gulfstream or General Dynamics Aviation Services badge. Also during his tenure, two Gulfstream development teams were honored with Robert J. Collier Trophies for excellence: the GV team in 1997 and the G550 team in 2003.
As a leader, Moss is known as both a consensus builder and a champion of the workforce. An ardent business aviation advocate, he’s served in a number of industry leadership capacities, including as a member of the NBAA Associate Member Advisory Council, which he chaired from 1994 to 1996, and as a member of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association board of directors.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame presented the Fifth Annual Combs Gates Award to first-time author Jane Gardner Birch. The organization recognized the resident of Annapolis, Md., with the $20,000 cash award for her soon-to-be-published book, “They Flew Proud.” The WWII experience of her father, Gardner Birch, a flight instructor in the Civilian Pilot Training Program at Grove City College and Airport in Pennsylvania, inspired her to write the book.
Birch, a mother of three and grandmother of six, wanted to learn more of her father’s role in the CPTP, created in 1939 during President Roosevelt’s administration to ensure a supply of trained pilots for the spreading conflict that was certain to involve the U.S. Her extensive research enabled her to outline the big picture behind the seldom heralded CPTP, one of the largest federally funded vocational education programs in history. “They Flew Proud” also shares many accounts of the personalities and pilots that comprised the CPTP, such as her father, who died in 1962, and includes the recollections of many living today.
Judges reviewed each submission based upon criteria such as historical accuracy, creativity, potential for long-term impact and value to the Hall of Fame and its mission of honoring America’s outstanding air and space pioneers.
The award grew out of a 2001 donation to the NAHF by Harry Combs, a 1996 enshrinee of the Hall of Fame. As part of his $1.3 million gift for the creation of a NAHF research center, Combs stipulated that the Combs Award be established to encourage and support relevant aviation history research and preservation efforts. The inaugural award was presented in 2003, the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight. Combs died in December of that year, at the age of 90.
Charles Gates Jr. and Combs were business partners in both the Combs Gates FBO chain and Gates Learjet. Following Gates’ death in 2005, at the age of 84, his children, John Gates and Diane G. Wallach, speaking for the Gates family, made a multi-year commitment to the NAHF regarding the award. Gates and Wallach, co-trustees of the Gates Frontiers Fund, participated in the award ceremony. Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of Orville and Wilbur Wright, presented the award, along with Gene Cernan, recognized as the last man to walk on the moon, and air show legend Bob Hoover.
Linden Blue, founder and CEO of Spectrum Aeronautical, LLC, announced that the $6.2 million Spectrum 40 Freedom would receive FAA type certification before the $3.65 million Spectrum S-33. The aircraft purchase agreement allows for a refund of the $120,000 deposit plus any accrued interest if the Spectrum Freedom doesn’t obtain FAA type certification by Dec. 31, 2010.
Vern Raburn explained why the Eclipse 500 is a “green” aircraft. Fuel efficiency, low emissions, low noise levels and confirmation to hazmat standards and use of recyclable materials make the aircraft environmentally correct. Raburn also commented that the FAA production certificate is harder to get than the type certificate. Now that they have it, the Eclipse 500 production rate is up to one per day; John Travolta is one of the company’s most recent customers. Morten Wagner of Denmark placed the winning bid of $1,833,945 for an Eclipse 500 auctioned on eBay. The Eclipse Concept Jet, a single-engine very light jet, will open more of the marketplace for cost-conscious aviators.
Embraer CEO Frederico Fleury Curado and Luis Carlos Affonso, executive vice president for executive jets, announced two new concept jets: the mid-size jet and the mid-light jet. Embraer’s Legacy 400 and Legacy 500 join the Legacy 600, as well as the smaller Phenom 100, Phenom 300 and the larger Linage 1000 in Embraer’s business jet family.
Piaggio America CEO Eric Hinson, Piaggio Aero CEO Jose Di Mase and Piaggio America Chairman Tom Appleton announced improvements in the Piaggio Avanti production rate—now at 28 aircraft per year and increasing to 40 per year by 2009. Worldwide, the in-service fleet of Avanti and Avanti II aircraft totals 130, with 90 of them based in North America. The first Chinese customer for Piaggio Aero recently purchased three P.180 Avanti II aircraft worth $21 million.
Jack Pelton, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft Company, announced a $600 million order for 30 Citation X business jets from XOJET, Inc., a charter operator that will add to the fleet of 17 Citation Xs they have this year.
Boeing Business Jet President Steven Hill discussed the full family of Boeing business aircraft, which now includes the BBJ, BBJ 2, BBJ 3, B747-8 VIP and Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Boeing delivers all VIP airplanes “green,” meaning that the aircraft don’t have interior furnishings or exterior paint. Customers then work with certified designers and interior completion centers to develop personalized interiors.
The 787 Dreamliner is a clean-sheet design; Boeing is the first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction. FAA certification is expected in 2008, although the first VIP example is unlikely to be delivered before 2010, at the earliest. Boeing currently has five orders for the 747-8 and four orders for the larger 747-9.
Grob CEO Niall Olver announced an order for 25 Grob spn twinjet business aircraft to PlaneSense, a fractional ownership program, to complement their existing fleet of 30 Pilatus PC-12 turboprop singles. Grob has sold more than 70 spn aircraft and has taken a substantial nonrefundable deposit from buyers on the $7.9 million purchase price. The fourth prototype is due to join the flight test program during the fourth quarter of this year, and will be dedicated to proving the SPn’s Honeywell Primus Apex avionics suite.
Grob expects FAA type certification by NBAA 2008. A full-size cabin mock-up of the spn featured a new interior designed by Porsche Design Studio; PDS also applied their expertise in the spn cockpit.
John Sabovich, ACQ Capital chairman; Richard Ransier, ACQ Capital principal; and Hamish Harding, Action Aviation chairman, announced their majority ownership of the Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation. This new funding will allow the ramp-up of production of the SJ30 light business jet in San Antonio, Texas. The FAA production certificate is expected early in 2008.
The company’s main manufacturing facility is at the John D. Rockefeller IV Technology Center, located at Eastern WV Regional Airport/Shepherd Field (MRB) in Martinsburg, W. Va. Their charter is to become a leading aircraft producer by creating a family of cost-efficient, high performance and quality, superior-technology business jet aircraft for the corporate, government and military sectors of world aviation.
The $6.195 million SJ30 costs less and consumes less fuel than many turboprop aircraft. With its 2,500 nautical mile range, the SJ30 offers comparable performance of a mid-size jet with a cost exceeding $12 million. Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation delivered its second customer SJ30 to Action Aviation, the largest SJ30 distributor in the world, with 159 aircraft on order. Action Aviation is part of the Action Group of Companies, with offices in the UK, U.S., Dubai (UAE), India, France, Denmark and Switzerland. Action Aviation is the distributor in many countries for MD Helicopters, the SJ30 and the ATG Javelin.
NBAA 2008 will be in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 6-8, 2008.
For more information, visit [http://www.nbaa.org].