Coming Up Sevens: NBAA Opens 2004 Convention...

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It is the best of times for most in the business aviation industry. Despite slow economic indicators in many sectors, business travel is trending up, most aircraft manufacturers and support organizations are doing well and crowded ramps are the norm at most FBOs, not the exception. And the near future looks good, especially if you believe Rolls-Royce, which Monday released its latest market projection for the business aviation industry, showing "virtually all of the key market driver indicators have turned positive and are trending up." To demonstrate their optimism, more than 30,000 industry participants, wanna-bes and hangers-on are expected to attend the 57th NBAA Annual Meeting and Convention, which kicked off yesterday in Las Vegas, Nev. Once there, they'll network with almost 1,100 exhibitors -- a record for an NBAA convention -- as they tire-kick new and used aircraft, including some that haven't yet made it off the factory floor. As if to demonstrate that things are looking up, NBAA's new President and CEO, Ed Bolen, opened the festivities sharing the stage with luminaries who included Transportation Security Administration head David M. Stone, journalist and political commentator Fred Barnes, astronaut Neil Armstrong and test pilot Scott A. Crossfield. The association also lauded Monday's Senate passage of a tax relief bill extending bonus depreciation for business-use aircraft, sending the bill to the White House for enactment, and planned to welcome Commerce Secretary Donald Evans today. Evans is scheduled to meet with Bolen and business aviation leaders regarding growth of the industry, access to foreign markets and trade promotion before touring the convention floor.