The Family Showalter and troops have been on the front lines of the onslaught that is the NBAA Convention since 1996, but pity them not. It was Bob Showalter's doing.
The 1995 and 1996 conventions were to be held in Detroit and Miami Beach respectively, but it was clear as those years approached that both locations were problematic. Detroit had experienced civil unrest and Miami had been visited by Hurricane Andrew -- events that left both locations in a bad way.
Dave Franson, who then led the NBAA convention team, was worried, and his concern was not alleviated when he visited the helicopter convention in Miami and saw the logistical problems first hand. That's when he got a call from the head of Showalter Flying Service. "I want to show you something that might work for you," Bob Showalter volunteered. Franson was all ears.
Presently, Showalter alighted in Miami in SunBank's borrowed jet, collected Franson and associates, along with some of the best from Joe's Stone Crabs and key lime pie, and headed home to Orlando Executive.
There followed a quick meeting with Orlando officials -- the mayor's office, airport authority and convention center management, among them -- who pitched their small, but growing convention hall and hotel offerings. They were so convincing that Franson then pitched a proposed change of venue to the NBAA board. Although some were wary of the distractions offered by Orlando's many attractions, the board members voted to go. After that, Las Vegas was an easy sell.
No surprise that Showalter Flying Service got the bid to host the static display, and the Showalter troops did such a fine job, they got tapped to run it at EBACE and elsewhere. Years later the boss decided he wanted them to focus on Showalter's customers, and turned the static duties over to others, but continued to lease acres of Showalter ramp space -- 25-27 acres this year upon which will shine nearly 100 aircraft.
Meanwhile, Orlando Executive expects to service some 600-700 transients this week, all of them loaded with visitors in need of food, shelter and fun.
"It's a great show for the city's airports and for Showalter," he says. And how. The airport authority says the convention is likely to add $33 million to the local economy by the time the Showalters -- wife Kim, daughter Jenny and son Sandy are all involved in daily ops -- wave the last NBAA visitor farewell.