Welcome to the Sunshine State! Florida is known around the world as one of the most desirable destinations for both business and leisure travelers. Whether seeking our beautiful beaches, amazing amusement parks, state of the art convention venues, or trying to escape to someplace warm and sunny, Florida is often selected as the go-to destination for events of all sizes and types.
Florida cities have been called upon to host some of the biggest gatherings in our nation. The Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Weekend, the Daytona 500, and the Republican National Convention are just a few examples of super-sized events that are drawn to Florida. Many of these events happen annually, while others are more infrequent.
Aviation is a vast industry in its own right. Some of the largest aviation events happen in Florida on a recurring basis. Lakeland plays host to SUN ‘n FUN annually, while Orlando is an every-other-year host to the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has also called Florida home in recent years for their Expo and Summit.
The average person knows that the travel infrastructure of a city will be impacted by the influx of people attending a large event. They understand the stress that is placed on airlines, hotels, rentals cars, roadways and restaurants. However, only people with a relationship to General or Business Aviation will think beyond the obvious and realize that these events also draw large numbers of high profile travelers. How do FBOs and airports plan for the influx of planes and people when large events draw near?
In the case of Showalter Flying Service at the Orlando Executive Airport, they have played host to the NBAA Static Display a record 8 times (with the 9th occurring during the printing of this publication in October 2014). Because NBAA is currently on an every other year rotating schedule between Las Vegas and Orlando, the planning for Showalter never really ends. According to President, Kim Showalter, “We never completely stop working on the event. In a show year, we start having monthly meetings with all our constituents in the spring and go to weekly meetings about 2 ½ months out.”
During the course of an NBAA Convention, Showalter will service up to 500 aircraft and handle literally thousands of passengers, crew members and pieces of luggage. When Showalter began hosting in 1996, the show impacted the FBO and airport for a period of approximately two weeks. Over the years, the show has grown and morphed into an event where manufacturers try to outdo their competition. The 2014 convention is expected to have a nearly month long impact on the FBO and its tenants.
It is through education and inclusion that the Showalter based tenants have learned to accommodate this “invasion” every 24 months. “Simply put, we have the best based customers around,” says Showalter. “We start months out from each show communicating with customers through our monthly newsletter and individual phone calls. It is important for us to touch each customer personally and make sure their questions and concerns are addressed. What we can tell them is that the month of October will not be business as usual at the airport, but it will be a ton of fun! All of our customers have the opportunity to volunteer for us during the show and are welcome to explore the Static Display that inhabits their normal tie-down and hangar space. With the help of our customers and ‘imported staff’ from other FBOs like fellow FABA members Banyan, Tampa International Jet Center and Stuart Jet Center, our staff grows from our normal 30 employees to over 100 during NBAA.”
Atlas Aviation (KTPF) AOPA Expo 2005
Atlas Aviation (KTPF) Republican National Convention 2012
According to Showalter, it can be the smallest things that become the largest obstacles during the show. “Some challenges that folks may not think of are things like the hundreds (yes hundreds!) of gallons of brewed coffee we need for the departure days and the 1,000 pairs of chocks we need to construct before the show starts.” Kim’s biggest piece of advice for others planning to host an event is, “…not to lose sight of the fact that this could be one of the best marketing opportunities you may ever have. Your customer, or potential customer, is coming to you and giving you an opportunity to show them what you can do.”
Showalter Flying Service (KORL) NB