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Our annual canvass of vendors at AirVenture seems to suggest 2016 has been a bumper year for booth traffic and sales. With only one exception, the vendors we spoke to on Thursday reported the best year they’ve seen in recent memory.

“We’re the distributor for the TBM for the northeast and eastern Canada. Traffic has been exceptionally high and more than just lookers. We have some people seriously interested in the aircraft,” said Ken Dono of Columbia Aircraft Sales, which is based in Connecticut.

Peter Halles of One Aviation reported similar results. “I would say the traffic is better than it has been in years past. The quality of the individuals stopping by the booth has been better. We’ve sold aircraft here at the show, which is not typically something we look for. Generally, we look for new leads and opportunities. We’re getting both,” Halles said.

At Matco Manufacturing, a popular supplier of brake components for the experimental market, George Happ said even with less-than-perfect weather, sales were strong.

“Considering how much rain we had today, it was a pretty steady flow. We brought the right kind of spare parts to sell. Worked out well,” he said. An Aircraft Spruce and Specialty representative said the same. “Tons of traffic. Lots of sales.”

Despite bouts of rain, flight demos have been busy, too. “The response to our new model has been tremendous. We’ve had a lot of action down at the rotorcraft field doing flight demos. So far, we’ve done almost 30 demos in four days,” said Darren Braymiller of Rotorway.

But not everyone was happy. One vendor, Art Imports, which sells mahogany aircraft models, reported slow booth traffic and no sales. But for 2016, that experience seemed to be the exception rather than the rule. 

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Boeing could soon see the last of its iconic four-engine 747, which has been in service since 1970, the company said this week. If orders for the jet don’t pick up soon, “It is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747,” the company said, according to Bloomberg News. In a conference call about Boeing’s quarterly financial report, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company is “aggressively driving productivity and cost reduction to win additional orders” for the 747-8. The air-cargo market remains weak, the company said, with operators renting space in airline cargo bays and ships instead of investing in cargo planes.

Overall, Boeing said, its financial position is strong, with nearly 5,700 commercial airplanes on order, valued at $417 billion. Boeing announced last year that a 747-8 had been chosen as the next Air Force One. The company has delivered more than 1,500 of the iconic jumbo jets around the world.

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China will soon be getting a new general aviation organization to promote industrial expansion in China. At AirVenture last week, Z-Park Sky Innovations General Aviation Alliance told reporters that the organization is aimed at helping expand GA in China, which is expected to total about $150 billion by 2020.

The alliance is headquartered in Zhongguancun Science Park (Z-Park on the north side of Beijing) in an area known as China's Silicon Valley. It’s a nonprofit that encompasses more than 60 organizations including GA enterprises, research companies and institutional investors. Blue Sky Innovations LLC, based in the Plano, Texas, is a member of the alliance and represents the group in the U.S. Its role is to provide a western bridge between China’s emerging GA market and world markets. 

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Organizers of a new sport aviation show in Deland, Florida, coming up in November say more than half of the exhibit space has been booked. Spokeswoman Jana Filip told AVweb in a podcast interview at EAA AirVenture the Deland Sport Aviation Showcase will feature manufacturers and suppliers in a sport aviation village at the north Florida airport, about 40 miles north of Orlando. The show, which runs from Nov. 3-5 at the Deland Airport, will have room for 46 outdoor and 52 indoor exhibitors and feature an “infomercial stage” where businesses can demonstrate their products.

Filip said the show is part of a concerted effort by Deland Municipal Airport to make the facility a hub for sport aviation activity in the Southeast. It already has a head start with several manufacturers and dozens of parachute industry businesses. The airport is already building six new commercial hangars, 21 T-hangars and storage as the first phase of the sport aviation village and hopes to expand it to include shop space for homebuilders and educational facilities.

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The first-ever fully autonomous commercial drone delivery to a customer’s doorstep was completed last week, with an OK from the FAA, delivering a package of hot and cold snacks from a 7-Eleven in Reno, Nevada, to a nearby family’s backyard. Drone manufacturer Flirtey and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, a nonprofit group working with the state government, teamed up to make the project work. “This delivery required special flight planning, risk analysis and detailed flight procedures ensuring residential safety and privacy were equally integrated,” said Chris Walach, operations director for NIAS.

Once it reached the delivery site, about a mile away, in less than five minutes, the Flirtey drone hovered in place and gently lowered its package by winch to the waiting customers. “The convenience of having access to instant, 24/7 drone delivery is priceless,” said the Reno resident, identified only as Michael, who received the Flirtey delivery, on July 11. He said he and his wife both work and have three small children. “It’s amazing that a flying robot just delivered us food and drinks in a matter of minutes.” Hot coffee arrived hot, and a Slurpee arrived still frozen. Flirtey said it envisions enabling autonomous drone delivery for humanitarian, online retail and food industries.

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Women’s Day at AirVenture is now in its ninth year, and on Wednesday, a full day of events brought women from all facets of aviation together. The day began with more than 400 women attending a sold-out breakfast hosted by Women in Aviation International, followed by the arrival of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737, flown by an all-female crew. The 737 carried 100 airline employees flying in to take part in the day’s events. Nearly 1,000 women gathered on Boeing Plaza next to the airplane for a commemorative WomenVenture photo.

The day also featured a lunch at Theater in the Woods, and in honor of Women’s Day, the afternoon airshow featured special performances by Vicky Benzing, Patty Wagstaff and Teresa Stokes. “WomenVenture has transformed the experience of women attending AirVenture,” said WAI President Peggy Chabrian. "We are grateful to EAA for encouraging women to participate not only in AirVenture but in the hundreds of other sights and sounds of Oshkosh.” WAI said they will host an International Girls in Aviation Day on Saturday, Sept. 24.

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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.

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At AirVenture 2016, Yingling showed off the next generation of its Ascend refurbished Cessna 172, which features a glass panel from Garmin. As part of AVweb's continuing coverage, here's a video tour of the airplane.

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Picture of the Week
AirVenture 2016: One More Look

As AirVenture 2016 draws to a close in Oshkosh, AVweb's newsteam took one more tour of the field for some final photographs.

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