On Friday, November 4th I took a ride up to DeLand, Florida. It was a drive a little under an hour from where I live/work. I was excited to scope out the first-ever Sport Aviation Showcase event. The event promised to bring a variety of vendors/displays, forums and aircraft demonstrations. Plus it was at DeLand so you knew there would be jumpers!
Any time the “first of its kind” event happens you expect some growing pains and I’m sure the event produced a list of “lessons learned” for the organizers, but it was planned and executed very, very well. Impressively so!
I set my (road) GPS to the DeLand Airport and easily picked up event signage at least a mile away from the event (I believe), which made entry to the event very easy. I was greeted at the gate, then again upon entering the parking area and was given clear instructions of where to park in the very well laid-out car parking area on a grassy area of the airfield.
The entry fee wasn’t too expensive, $20 for a regular entry, but I got $5 off thanks to my AOPA membership (EAA membership entitled patrons to the same discount). Another good technique was that anyone with a student ID could get into the event for free on the final day of the event. This year the event ran Thursday (11/3), Friday (11/4) and Saturday (11/5). I thought this was odd, but nestled up to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) conference earlier in the week in Orlando, FL it worked out.
There were quite a few aircraft on display, with a number of representatives from each organization to answer any questions. The “vendor” hall was full of a variety of aviation-related organizations from our friends at MzeroA.com to Sun ‘n Fun! There we displays beyond aircraft manufacturers too, one of the big draws was Swift fuels displaying their AvGas 94-octane (unleaded) product!
Throughout the day on Friday, various light sport aircraft took to the skies for aerial demonstrations. The Carbon Cub making extremely short takeoff and landing runs was certainly a crowd favorite! All the while, the sky was dotted with hundreds (over the course of the day) of parachutes. DeLand is a renowned destination for sky divers and this was clearly illustrated throughout the day while I was there. Visitors had multiple food options, with a lunch tent set up with live music to top it off!
One thing did stick out though… The attendance. Anytime you do a ‘first of it’s kind’ event you’re not sure what to expect. The event was well laid out, with plenty of space, vendor clusters, aircraft parking areas, vehicle parking areas, etc… But the attendance wasn’t great. It was steady, it was good, but it wasn’t great.
The good thing is that the event has a foundation now. They have a well-executed plan to build up, a great blue print. The challenge for next year is attracting more people. The event organizers will need to appeal to those within the aviation community and those outside of it. With some minor tweaks and small additions I believe they will be able to build great interest in aviation (this event) from the general public – which will be good for all of us in the greater general aviation community!
Good work Sport Aviation Showcase, I’m excited for the 2017 edition!
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9