Special NBAA 2003 Wrap-up

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AVweb's BizAv was on hand to cover the largest business aviation event of the year, as The National Business Aviation Association's (NBAA) 56th Annual Meeting & Convention opened its doors in Orlando on October 7. So, we're happy to provide you with some of the major newsmaking events of the show.

NBAA Doors Open With Much Fanfare ...

NBAA 2003 kicked off with lots of news and hoopla. While last year's exhibitors and attendees displayed residual uneasiness a year after 9/11 in the midst of a struggling market, the mood at this year's show was much more optimistic. Several major announcements were made at the show, which opened to a record number of exhibitor and static aircraft displays. NBAA officials announced the final stats with 28,574 attendees viewing the products and services of a record 1,068 exhibiting companies occupying nearly a million square feet of exhibit space. In addition, over 100 aircraft on static display at Orlando Executive Airport added to the impressive display of corporate aviation's marketing muscle.

... Big Names Get This Started ...

To get things off to the right start, a handful of dignitaries helped launch the convention in a celebratory fashion. This year's Opening General Session read like a Who's Who of aviation, with FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey, astronauts Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong, and U.S. Congressman John L. Mica, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee on hand to offer their insights on the fastest-growing segment of the aviation industry. Blakey and Mica both expressed frustration with NATCA's ongoing battle with the contract towers issue, which Blakey characterized as a "non-issue." Mica indicated the debate is holding up the pending FAA Reauthorization Bill, which -- among other things -- provides $100 million for the general-aviation post-9/11 recovery. Armstrong and Cernan -- respectively the first and last astronauts to walk on the Moon -- were on hand to present the First Annual Harry B. Combs Award to famed aviation photographer Dan Patterson. Cernan described his "romance" with aviation and how it helped shape his very successful career, while Armstrong reflected on the many innovations Harry Combs developed for the business aviation community. The frail Combs was on hand to personally present the award to Patterson.