“The future of business aviation has never looked brighter,” NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said this morning in the opening session at the organization’s regional forum at Westchester County Airport (KHPN) in White Plains, New York, the first to be held there since pre-pandemic 2019. “Business aviation operations during the pandemic are up, and that is good for America.”
Bolen noted the nearly 90,000 business aviation operations at forum venue KHPN last year as an example of that momentum, adding that is emblematic of what is being seen at airports all over the country. He also pointed to the influx of new users who have gravitated to business aviation for its ability to transport them safely, securely, and flexibly. While those were always hallmarks of the industry, people began to value them more during the pandemic, he noted.
With the attention being paid to the developing advanced air mobility (AAM) industry, Bolen is eager to welcome it under the organization’s umbrella. “In a lot of ways when they talk about AAM, they’re really just underscoring the definition of business aviation,” he said, adding the industry has always leveraged the existing technology of the day to achieve its mission. “For decades, almost since the Wright Brothers, people have been using general aviation aircraft for on-demand air mobility to get people where they need to be, when they need to be there.”
With the FAA’s latest authorization expiring next year, Bolen stated that the reauthorization process could both provide opportunities for the industry as well as challenges in a variety of areas, including taxation, access, safety, and security. “Our ability to shape our future will depend on your engagement,” he told the audience.
As well, labor issues will require the industry to work to meet its demands. "Our challenge is to make sure...that we can attract the best and the brightest, not necessarily from places we've looked before," said Bolen, "but from new places where we have an opportunity to find communities that have been underrepresented but have the ability to take us to greater heights."
Regarding the growth of the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry, Bolen equated it to the chicken-and-egg situation. "Are we going to have demand spur production, or have production spur demand?" he asked, adding that he believes the aviation industry has been successful in raising awareness of SAF and is now focused on increasing production. "If we're successful in combining them with book-and-claim, I think we have a lot of room to grow."
Hosted by Million Air in its 52,000-sq-ft hangar, the event attracted nearly 200 exhibitors and approximately 2,500 attendees. The static display on the ramp between the hangar and the FBO terminal featured 18 aircraft, including Gulfstream’s soon-to-be-certified, ultra-long-range G700.