OSHblog: Taking The Pulse: Strong And Getting Stronger


Something every media organization tries to do at AirVenture and, to some degree, Sun ‘n Fun is gauge the health of the industry by observations gleaned at the big show.

It’s an inexact science to be sure, especially since the goalposts not only change position, they change in height, diameter and the speed with which they move.

We get some insight into the show from our own business, which had healthy response from advertisers as it usually does.

But mainly we have to rely on the comments from vendors and even a check with other members of the media if something seems out of kilter.

Since 2008, we’ve done a lot of brave face interviews. I can’t think of any business where resilience is more important. At the best of times, it takes solid products and service, a thick skin and a positive attitude to keep going. When it hits the fan like it did back then, it takes an almost heroic posture to just unlock the doors in the morning let alone face the bleakness of a lackluster show populated by disinterested patrons with hands stuffed firmly in their pockets.

Some didn’t. For a few years at AirVenture there were a lot of non-aviation booths at the show, a tribute to EAA’s resourcefulness, but a troubling sign nonetheless. I did get a really nice set of sheets at a bargain price a couple of years ago, though.

But although it was obvious that times were tough, we hardly heard a discouraging word from the vendors who did show.

If they couldn’t talk about sales, they talked about prospects. If they couldn’t talk about growth, they talked about product development and they almost uniformly predicted a better future.

Well, it seems they were right.

At this show, we heard many of the same words we’ve heard in the past eight years.

The difference this year was that we believed them.

Vendors were anxious to talk about how well they were doing and they seemed a little surprised by it. They talked about sales they didn’t expect and people they didn’t expect to meet, qualified and serious buyers who knew what they wanted and who were ready to pull the trigger.

I guess if there was a company that symbolized the change it was Diamond Aircraft. Diamond took all the hits that every other OEM took with the crash and then Thielert went out of business, leaving Diamond without an engine provider. It started building engines itself, diversified its business and soldiered on.

Diamond was back at AirVenture for the first time in five years and while its booth was more modest than in the wonder years, Diamond added some panache with a DA-42 mounted on a 20-foot pole. You could see it from anywhere in the exhibit area and I bet there will be more than a few next year.

Mooney has reclaimed a big piece of OSH real estate for its exhibit this year and all the other majors were there in force.

It was fun to cover and while the heady days of 2007 will not likely return (remember when there were seven very light jet prototypes flying?) the industry seems to be at least stable if not exactly boisterous.

We’ll take it and after the last eight years we deserve it.