A business aviation forum and trade show at Teterboro Airport drew large numbers of attendees Thursday — an indication of an uptick in an industry focusing on the 2012 elections.
About 2,400 private aviation professionals checked out more than 130 industry-related vendors, informational sessions and 35 aircraft on display during the National Business Aviation Association's Business Aviation Regional Forum. The NBAA hosts four regional forums around the country every year.
NBAA President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Bolen said the general aviation industry – which suffered a downturn in 2008 as the financial crisis deepened and corporations slashed private air travel — has seen slight increases in flight hours, though it has not returned to pre-recession levels.
"What you will see is a lot of optimism going forward that's tempered by the realism that what happens in the overall U.S. economy and the overall world economy is going to be reflected in our industry," he said.
Though air traffic at Teterboro — the busiest general aviation airport in the nation — fluctuates monthly, overall flights have increased annually, said Renee Span, Teterboro Airport manager, during an information session. The airport had more than 152,000 takeoffs and landings last year, a 2 percent increase from 2010, and a rise from the airport's 2009 low of fewer than 138,000 takeoffs and landings. The airport is expecting another increase this year, she said.
Given the upcoming election season, Bolen said the NBAA this year is looking to reach out to policymakers about the importance of private aviation for businesses, in an effort to change the negative image it got during the financial crisis.
"The people who will decide the cases, who will determine the regulations and laws that will affect our industry are in the jury box. They're our elected officials," he said.
One issue the industry is concerned about is the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, a program intended to address climate change by taxing aviation emissions on flights from the United States to Europe, said Bolen, who recently testified on the issue before the Senate.
The NBAA does not endorse candidates or parties, Bolen said. However, the organization is working on helping its members know where their candidates stand on general aviation issues. About one-third of congressional members are part of the general aviation caucus, which advocates for the industry in Congress, he said.
Event attendee Tony Ryan, president of Carolina Corporate Jets, based in Mooresville, S.C., said that although general aviation businesses are picking up — his company has sold four Citation aircraft in the past two weeks— he hopes more pro-business and pro-aviation officials are elected in November.
"Once businesses are doing better, the industry will follow suit," he said.
Andrew Ponzoni, a spokesman for aircraft manufacturer Dassault Falcon Jet Corp. located in Teterboro, was displaying two of the company's business jets – a $52 million Falcon 7X and a $33 million Falcon 2000 LX. He said there has been more interest in the company than in past years.
Ponzoni said the United States is recovering in aircraft sales, but it still lags behind stronger markets such as China and India.