DeLand, Florida - As the volunteers and staff of the 2nd annual DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase took position and opened the gates, it became obvious that what had formed here over the past several days was the backdrop for a reunion of friends, flying and a trade event worthy of a winter retreat.
Before the exhibits opened at 9:00a, the local EAA Chapter 635 was putting on a free will offering pancake breakfast and many familiar faces from last year’s vendor alumni surfaced, as well as show freshman, some of which are new to this show circuit and others that are household names. Over 100 different exhibitors from all over the globe have made DeLand their home for the next few days.
The Opening Ceremony started at 9:30a and was led off by the DeLand High School Junior ROTC Color Guard and simultaneously our National Anthem was performed by show staffer and musician Gary Filip. Organized by Skydive DeLand, the nation of Qatar’s Army Jump Team coordinated an impressive 16 member white diamond formation as the backdrop to the ceremony.
Show Director Jana Filip gave a special thank you to the DeLand Municipal Airport and the City of DeLand. Airport Director John Eiff announced that their new development located on the East side of the airport called Sport Aviation Village, will have places available in late spring and summer of 2018 for sport aviation manufacturers. Vice Mayor Leigh Matusick and members of the Volusia County economic development office were also in attendance.
The Outdoor Exhibitors setup was well laid out to make it easy to see as many different models of Sport Aircraft as one wants, making it convenient to compare different models and types. This show offers something that most major shows do not, intimacy…a laid back, one on one approach that both buyer and seller appreciate. In many cases at this show you are talking to the designer, engineer, CEO and sometimes all of them combined, when you inquire at a stand at Showcase.
The Indoor Exhibitors Tent was full of appealing products and services ranging from sunglasses to avionics and paint, and interior services to insurance brokers. One really cool new addition was the Indoor Exhibit Stage. Press conferences, product demonstrations, prize give-a-ways and interviews were performed on stage throughout the three day show. The impressive part of the interview wasn’t the performances themselves, but rather the reach outside of the physical show that these interviews and conversations were attaining. The sessions were being streamed live to the show’s Facebook page and were being watched by people not able to attend the show. You can see footage from the entire show archived on the show’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/delandsportaviationvillage/.
Under the large “Show Center” tent across from the food vendor area, where most attendees eat their meals, entertainment was provided morning and afternoon by members of the Flying Musician Association. At 1:00p Dan Johnson of ByDanJohnson.com and President of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) was the first Keynote Speaker and talked about “The Triumph of LSA” and the 10 ways the LSA Industry has helped other segments within aviation. Dan was followed by Eric Burris, pilot and WESH 2 News Meteorologist. Eric presented his unique view on “How to Forecast the Weather, a key factor to keeping all safe both in and out of the skies”.
EAA Workshops sponsored by Aircraft Spruce, were in effect each day at 9:30a and 2:00p and operated hands on workshops in Composite and Sheet Metal at no cost to the attendee.
The Manufacturer's Showcase took place from 12 noon -1:00p and demonstration flights happened all day long with several whispers of aircraft sales taking place on first day of Showcase 2017.
Forums took place each day and were located directly adjacent to the indoor exhibit tent. Sessions were at 9:30a, 11:00a, 2:00p and 3:30p and covered a vast variety of subjects. Thursday’presenters included representatives from EAA, Pipistrel Aircraft, Garmin, NORAD, Zenith Aircraft, Dynon Avionics, Bristell Aircraft and Lockwood Aviation.
It was very clear throughout the day walking around the showgrounds from end to end, that much planning and organization went into this event by the show management, staff and volunteers. I heard many compliments about the volunteers and how they genuinely cared about the vendor’s and attendee’s experiences while at the show. That is a biggie in the world of niche Aviation events. The positive atmosphere made the DeLand Showcase a place one just wanted to be...a place filled with enthusiasm, optimism, and the promise of a bright future for sport aviation.
As the display aircraft and last minute arrivals found their final resting places, the first day of the show finally glided to an end. With the promise of great weather and an intimate show atmosphere, Friday and Saturday promised to be packed full of people to see and things to do and learn.
The weather was again ideal for the second day of Showcase 2017. At 9:40a a restored Piper L-18C touched down and pulled into the Lakeland Aero Club’s aircraft display next to the forum tents. Mike Jenkins and Tyson Trentham both 18 years old, flew the plane from their home base in Lakeland, Florida. The youth aviators flew in for the day to assist their program director Mike Zidziunas in presenting a forum titled “Making Tomorrow's Greatest Aviators...Today”.
There were many subjects covered in the forums including avionics, ADS-B, seaplanes, insurance, engines and education.
Flight Design General Aviation GmbH held a press conference on the Indoor Exhibit Stage and announced that Flight Design GmbH., the manufacturer of the popular CT line of Light Sport, Certified and Ultralight aircraft, is now owned by LiftAir of Eisenach Germany. Flight Design USA will continue to be the importer for North, Central and South Americas.
Under the Show Center tent, Keynote Speaker and Executive Director of the Seaplane Pilots Association, Steve McCaughey drew a good crowd to deliver the “State of the Seaplane Industry” and opened up a Q&A to a group of Seaplane expert panelists.
Among the many exhibitors, Elite Sponsor Viking Aircraft Engines has an impressive trailer that converted into the largest engine display at the show. Viking takes Honda automotive engines and converts them for use in aircraft. Owner Jan Eggenfeller said that they offer engines that range from 130 hp to 208 hp. He said that many builders of Zenith kits are choosing Viking’s engines. He also claimed that the fastest Zenith aircraft flying has a Viking powering it.
Speaking of Zenith Aircraft, CEO Sebastien Heintz was present representing their line of kits and was very proud of their company’s 25th anniversary this year. Randy Schlitter of RANS Aircraft brought with him to Showcase his new 141 all-metal wing for their S-20 and S-21 models of aircraft.
As the show started to wrap up for the second day, it was evident that the attendance increased over the first day of the show as expected. We heard final numbers for the day that indicated a growth in the total number of attendees over last years event.
Momentum and blue skies ahead!
For the third and final day of the show, predictions rang true for picture perfect weather and increased attendance. Saturday at the DeLand Showcase was “All-About-The-Student-Day” and the guest speakers were tailored to appeal to a wide age range of folks, to include our next generation of aviators as well as those that will help to guide them on their journey. Speakers included Drew Medina, student, saxophonist and now certificated pilot, the recipient of the first ever SOLO Scholarship Program given by the Flying Musicians Association. Next was Ernie Butcher, President and CEO, and David Malcolm, Vice-President, both of the Eagle’s Nest Project, an organization that brings aviation to High Schools through a hands on aircraft building program. Last was Mike Zidziunas of the Lakeland Aero Club, one of the largest and most known youth aviation clubs in the nation.
There was no shortage of young attendees from stroller aged to college students, youth in aviation is alive and was visibly represented on Saturday at Showcase.
The forums of the day covered topics of building your own aircraft, flying a motorglider, high school building clubs, buying and flying an LSA, ADS-B, Dynon’s product line for certified aircraft and how to avoid a fighter jet escort.
As is the case for any “young” trade show in aviation, attendance usually is the main conversation touched upon, especially when talking between vendors. Each day was better than last year, attendance-wise. There was a slight increase in vendors, totaling 108 and over 100 aircraft were on display over the three day event. Feedback from attendees and vendors alike was positive, especially on the quality of the Showcase. Specifically, the quality of the attendee through the gate, the quality of the volunteers and their efforts and the quality of the staff’s organization and operation.
We appreciate all who helped to make this year’s Showcase a success. Plans for next years Showcase are underway! Please let us know how we can improve upon your experience and make next year’s show even better. Showcase only exists with each and everyone's support. Make plans to attend or exhibit and spread the word so as an industry DeLand will continue to be a must-see Sport Aviation trade event. As the infrastructure of the Showcase continues to develop, look for more workshops hosted by the manufacturers (with Zenith already committed for a fuselage build) along with youth aviation interactive activities. Dates for the 3rd annual DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase are slated for November 1–3, 2018.
Visit www.sportaviationshowcase.com to find select photos in the Newsroom. A complete photo gallery from Showcase 2017 will be posted soon.