It being general aviation and all, lots of businesses have learned to survive if not thrive on crumbs and scraps. It now looks like one company seems to be betting that AOPA left a bit of a feast on the table last summer when it summarily cancelled its annual fall exposition, lately called Summit. An exposition company called Lift Event Management is taking up where AOPA left off and trying to launch a show next fall in Palm Springs. They’re even calling it…you guessed it, Aviation Summit.
In a professionally prepared prospectus making the rounds this week, Lift Management proposes a three-day show from October 17 to 19. I’m not sure how this will be received, but right out of the blocks, there’s a problem: The NBAA Convention runs from October 21 to the 23, making the two shows back to back. Lift told AVweb’s Tom Bliss that the date may have to be adjusted but even so, for many companies, the time for planning to attend will just be too short. This has been a perennial problem in October for many companies, including us. Even a small presence at such shows costs $10,000 to $15,000 and for some vendors, a lot more than that. Just as costly is the disruption to normal business for companies that aren’t fat with staff. Five days out of the office takes another five to catch up.
But do we even need another fall show in a season that already has five major expositions, plus several minor ones? When I posed this question to some of the companies at last years final AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, I got mixed reactions. Some were wondering how they would replace the marketing exposure Summit gave them, others were happy for a more restful fall. I shopped Lift’s idea among a few companies yesterday and again got mixed reviews. Aircraft Spruce, which is right in the Palm Springs neighborhood, said they would probably attend it. But halfway across the country, Houston-based ForeFlight said probably not. I think Lift will have a marketing challenge in selling enough exhibition space to turn a profit. They should have started last fall. On the plus side, Palm Springs was always a good draw for AOPA's shows.
I can’t decide whether templating AOPA’s version of Summit—right down to the parade of planes—is a clever bit of marketing coat tailing or just a half-hearted lack of creativity. But it is confusing. One company I e-mailed thought AOPA had reconsidered and was re-instituting Summit. I’m not sure people like that sleight of hand. It’s a weird way to build a new brand. And besides, I always thought Summit was a terrible name. Expo was simply a better choice, succinctly describing what the thing is all about. A summit is either a mountaintop or a high-level diplomatic deliberation.
Still, there may be room for such an expo, whatever you call it. Last fall, I covered a new show in the motorcycle industry called simply AIM Expo. It too was breaking into a well-served market and was superbly executed. The vendors raved about it. Compared to the motor sports industry, GA is rather more anemic, but that doesn’t mean a critical mass of vendors can’t come together to yield a show that’s attractive to consumers. There may very well be a need for it and I think we would all like it to succeed if there is. But it may take a little more planning than Lift has done to pull it off.
We’ll see, I suppose.