|BlueSky Business Aviation News|
Just before the holidays, the Wichita Aero Club hosted its eagerly anticipated On-Air Summit. While panelists spoke about the global aviation industry, they directed most of their comments to Wichita, an aviation cluster especially hard hit by the 2008 recession.
Redefining and Reimagining
Panelist and Professional Pilot editor Mike Potts, who worked at Beech earlier in his career, agreed with Hawker Beechcraft’s decision to shed its jet lines and the first part of its name. Emerging from bankruptcy focused on turboprops - the King Air, Baron, Bonanza and military trainers - lets Beechcraft Corp. play to its strength. Panelist and EAA Publications contributor Mac McClellan added, “I’m very excited and bullish about the future for Beech with propeller airplanes.”
McClellan summarized the difference, saying the auto industry left Detroit, while in Wichita’s case the whole aviation industry has dwindled. That hurts in a community where one in 10 people work in aviation. The yet-to-rebound light and midsize business-aircraft segments continue to generate head-scratching. For a time they couldn’t build those planes fast enough. “What happened?” McClellan asked.
Go Big or Go Home
It seems counterintuitive that planes with a higher price point are outselling their smaller, more pocketbook-friendly brethren.
All agreed that general aviation is going through a period of transformation and no one has a clear picture of what it will look like when it comes through on the other side. From a changing customer base to changes in the aircraft themselves. Electric powered. Electronically controlled flight. All composite. Super efficient. Manufactured here, there and everywhere. “I haven’t seen this level of investment in decades,” said Garvey. Yes challenges remain. Fuel prices. Union contract negotiations. Pilot shortages. Governmental issues. Increased globalization. Replacing leaded avgas. Even Wichita’s lack of a deep sea port.
The Will to Win
“I’m optimistic about the future,” said Flying magazine editor-in-chief and panelist Robert Goyer. “People have these aircraft because they’re useful.” Never mind about Wichita’s landlocked status. Its diversified aviation cluster and commitment to innovation and investment can pull it through. “Wichita should stand up and shout what it’s doing.”
We agree there’s cause to be bullish about business aviation. For one, several of the panelists flew their own planes to the summit.