The Aerlex Law Group team was out in full force at the National Business Aviation Association’s Business Aviation Convention & Exposition (NBAA-BACE) October 20-24 in Las Vegas.
Aerlex President Stephen Hofer and partner Amanda Applegate were joined by Aerlex attorneys Doug Stuart and Sarah Northcraft-Spann, transactional paralegal Rad Diklich and firm administrator John Youngman at BACE and spent time during the days at both the Las Vegas Convention Center, where more than 1,000 exhibitors had booths displaying aviation-related goods and services, and the Henderson Executive Airport, 15 miles south of the Convention Center, where more than 100 business jet aircraft were on static display. In the evenings, the Aerlex team also attended a whirlwind of receptions and cocktail parties connected with BACE.
The convention’s first morning, Tuesday, October 23rd, began with a presentation from keynote speaker Earvin “Magic” Johnson that was equal parts informative, amusing and entertaining. The basketball superstar, successful entrepreneur and humanitarian fired up more than 1,000 attendees at the opening ceremony by mingling with the crowd and joking about his 6’9″ stature as he described the importance of business aviation in his career.
Talking about his Gulfstream GIII, Johnson said, “This plane has put years on my life for almost 20 years now. The things I can accomplish now, I never could do without it. I’m on the road up to 200 days a year, so I need an airplane to take me to multiple cities for my appearances and meetings. When you think about efficiency, the things that it’s meant to me as a businessman and for getting me back faster to my family – it’s been a blessing owning that aircraft.”
Before giving his keynote address, Johnson spent time talking with Hofer and his wife, Tammy Barr, in the Green Room backstage and then, when Magic took the stage, he gave a “shout out” to “Steve, my aviation lawyer” – reconfirming for the people attending the keynote session Hofer’s long-time recognition in the industry as the “Aviation Attorney to the Stars.”
Another highlight of the first morning of the convention was the presentation of NBAA’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award, the association’s highest honor, to pilot, businessman and aviation champion Ross Perot, Jr. Perot spent eight years as a pilot in the United States Air Force, and led the effort to establish the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Washington, DC. In 1982, he co-piloted a Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II, named the “Spirit of Texas,” on the first round-the-world flight by helicopter. Perot is also a real estate developer who was one of the principal drivers in the effort to establish Alliance Airport (AFW) near Fort Worth, Texas, and he is now pushing urban air mobility (UAM), transportation systems designed to move city residents by air, through a partnership with Uber Elevate.
The rapidly evolving nature of the aviation industry was one of the highlights of BACE 2019 and futuristic modes of air transport, such as UAM and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), were on prominent display at the convention, including full-scale prototypes and concept aircraft, a popular attraction in the all-new UAS/UAM Innovation Display Area. UAM is expected to become an increasingly important part of the urban transportation system in the next several years with the introduction of electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing vehicles (eVTOL) aircraft. These new battery-powered rotorcraft, which will utilize an array of emerging technologies, are expected to be quieter and safer than current helicopters.
Another focal point of the show was Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), non-fossil fuel power sources that can reduce aviation’s carbon emissions by up to 80 percent. Some 150,000 gallons of SAF were delivered to Henderson Airport and every one of the turbine-powered aircraft that departed the static display at the end of the convention were fueled with SAF. An “I Want My SAF” forum that featured a panel of experts talking about increasing SAF availability and usage attracted a standing-room only audience.
A traditional highlight of the NBAA convention is the unveiling of new aircraft and the announcement of big deals and BACE 2019 was no exception. Bombardier conducted a ceremony at the static for the official entry into service of the Global 6500 jet aircraft powered by new Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engines and displayed its Learjet 75 Liberty mockup for the first time. Textron Aviation’s newly certified Citation Longitude was on hand and Gulfstream displayed a mockup of the ultra-long-range G700. Fractional operator Flexjet announced that it had placed an order with Embraer Executive Jets worth $1.4 billion for 64 Phenom 300Es, Praetor 500 and Praetor 600 jets.
In summing up this year’s convention in Las Vegas, Aerlex’s Hofer said, “I was really energized and excited by my attendance at NBAA-BACE this year. I think the 2019 convention demonstrated that the business aviation industry is actively and aggressively looking to the future and recognizes that it must make big strides, both to be more environmentally sensitive and also, at the same time, to meet the ever-increasing needs for the transportation of people in densely packed urban areas.
“The business aviation community understands it has a part to play in making this a better, more livable world,” Hofer continued, “and the Aerlex Law Group is very enthused by the opportunity to be a part of that transformation.”