Yesterdays opening general session officially kicked off the 59th annual NBAA convention in Orlando, Fla. NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen moderated the session, which highlighted the contribution of business aviation to the U.S. economy and the future of the national airspace system. After Bolen spoke briefly, Caterpillar president and U.S. Chamber of Commerce chairman Gerald Shaheen stressed the importance of business aviation to the general economy. “Business aviation allows business to get done,” he said, and then went on to explain the aviation user-fee debate going on in Washington. NBAA and other aviation groups are firmly against user fees, which they say would adversely affect business and general aviation. Shaheen suggested that the user-fee battle is not so much over how the FAA will be funded, but who will control airspace usage.
Next up was FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, who said that no matter how the FAA is funded the agency must press ahead with its air traffic system modernization to meet future demand. Immediately after the session, the red ribbon was cut to the exhibit halls entrance, allowing the large crowd of attendees to hit the show floor like kids in a candy store.