NBAA 2021 and Aviation Trade Shows in 2022by Editor - Daniel Brindley | October 20, 2021

NBAA Aircraft Display 2021 Courtesy of
NBAA Aircraft Display 2021 Courtesy of

A review of NBAA Las Vegas 2021 and a look at the current trends that are impacting B2B aviation tradeshows, and suggestions for attendees & exhibitors moving into 2022.

Entering and Registration

NBAA Las Vegas was my first fully indoor event of 2021. I was attending and not exhibiting, regardless I had to be vaccinated either way. I kept a photo of my vaccine card in a file on my iPhone and was asked to see it whenever entering the Las Vegas Convention center (LVCC) and verify it with my Photo ID, others used an app on their phone for quicker access. There was surprisingly no queue on arrival at the LVCC and everyone understood the protocol. Once inside the LVCC it was free to unmask.

After registration and printing my badge again (quick and easy) I went straight to the show floor, passing the newly minted Duncan Donuts and seating area that made up the shiny new West Wing of the LVCC.

Show floor

The show floor looked great but when I realized there was only one hall, I’m guessing the physical space was around half its normal size. The number of exhibitors was about 25% less than 2019. Most of the big OEMs were exhibiting including Textron, Bombardier, Pratt Whitney, Boeing, GE and Honda etc.

Noticeable flagship companies not exhibiting include Gulfstream, flagship exhibitors traditionally purchase a lot of space, bring a large contingent of customer and venders adding value to any event. It will be key that NBAA brings back these OEM’s in 2022.

The mood on the show floor was great. I spoke with a few exhibitors in the new maintenance pavilion on the show floor. Steve Lehew and Nick McDonald, at Evans Composites said, “as a commercial & military solution for composite repairs, the NBAA is a great event for us to grow in the business jet space”. Travis Henderson, CEO of Aero Creeper a manufacture of adjustable wheeled seating to support repairs said, “I’m excited to be at the NBAA event and meet decision makers. Ely Luna at Lee Aerospace said, “We had a great first day promoting our Hawker and Lear Jet windows”.

Trade Shows Post Covod-19

It would be easy to say that the trade show model has been humbled by Covid-19. With many sales and marketing people forced to sell their products & services online ditching live events for computer screens. With many companies using these screen sharing tools for the first time it’s been a huge boost for online meeting platforms including, Google Meet, Blue Jean, MSFT Teams and even FaceTime.

Doug Emslie (MD of Tarsus Group a major global B2B exhibition company and an old employer) felt that Trade Shows would only return to 85% of their pre-covid levels. Suggesting that moving forward event organizers need a digital component for those who want to connect virtually with exhibitors and attendees before, during and after the show.

Virtual Events

I participated in the NBAA’s and the MRO Show’s online only events last year and was impressed with the online visuals but not the interaction with exhibitors. It was ok, but it wasn’t as fun and harder to understand who was and wasn’t available online. I did connect with two important decision makers at the NBAA event, but it took me an hour or two and then I left. After that experience I knew that virtual events were not for me, they lacked the excitement and dynamic interaction of face-to-face meetings.

Post Covid-19

The NBAA Las Vegas event took place against a still complex back-drop of vaccination requirements and international travel bans. Many potential exhibitors of NBAA and other events have chosen not to participate due to vaccination requirements. With America opening its borders to the vaccinated on the 7-8th November to Europe, Canada and Mexico we should see better attendance at international shows. However, until Covid19 is in the rear-view mirror and vaccine mandates disappear full participation at events (buyers and sellers) is unlikely.

Aviation Shows 2022

I think 2022 will see a much stronger year for aviation trade shows. If the delta variant and the unvaccinated don’t spiral out of control (unlikely) we should see Covid at its lowest levels by the middle of next year in the US. This is great for domestic events but some international events reliant on countries with lower levels of vaccinated than the USA could see travel restrictions that dampen attendance. Also, it’s hard to plan for variants of Covid that can cause spikes in infections. It’s more likely that we continue to live with Covid like the Flu moving well into next year. Trade events will not be back to their pre-covid levels in 2022, so if you are planning to exhibit maybe pare back your booth, assess who is and is not exhibiting before committing and assess hybrid events, virtual and face to face as options too. I think the NBAA did a great job and I think their 2022 show will be even better. I also think the MRO USA 2022 event will be a much better show and to be fair it was a tough time back April 21 to launch an event and I think we’ve already come a long way since then.