The National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA’s) 31st Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference (SDC2020) concluded March 12 with positive marks among exhibitors and attendees for the show’s timely content, new products and features and quality attendees.
The event – ranked among the top 10 editions of SDC, as measured by participation from exhibitors and the 2,500 registered attendees – kicked off by putting front and center a pressing challenge confronting business aviation: the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, a particular concern for a highly mobile industry.
In the opening keynote address, Dr. Clayton Cowl, chair, preventive, occupational and aerospace medicine with the Mayo Clinic, provided an update on the rapidly evolving situation, along with practical tips for reducing community transmission of the virus. Don Chupp, president and CEO with global emergency-response firm Fireside Partners, offered advice regarding communications and business planning in light of the situation.
The opening keynote concluded with an inspiring presentation from Warren Macdonald, Australian environmentalist, adaptive mountain climber and bilateral above-the-knee amputee, who shared life-changing lessons learned after surviving a traumatic climbing accident.
Once the event got underway, attendees were on hand for education sessions covering a host of timely topics, including integration of unmanned aircraft systems into flight departments, combating cybersecurity threats, and the latest considerations for operations in areas ranging from America’s Eastern seaboard to Eastern Europe and Asia.
More than 90% of confirmed exhibitors were on hand, eager to share their perspectives. “We’ve got fixed-base operators from all over the country here exhibiting with us,” said Meghan Allen, associate brand director with SDC exhibitor Phillips 66 Aviation.
“We’ve always loved coming to schedulers – it’s by far the best conference [NBAA] puts on,” said Matt Lawrence, COO with exhibitor Fortis Riders. “Sometimes the only time we get that face-to-face interaction with those dispatchers – who are the real decision makers – is right here at Schedulers & Dispatchers,” said Roger Woolsey, CEO with exhibitor Million Air.
Bringing added energy to the show were first-time features, including an inaugural SDC New Products Showcase, which introduced 13 products and services new to the business aviation marketplace. “The showcase was very well received,” noted Tyler Austin, NBAA senior manager of certification. “It not only offered these new entrants an opportunity to build relationships with customers; it underscored the innovative spirit characteristic of business aviation.”
With a nod toward the industry’s future, a group of SDC participants gathered before show-start at Charlotte Douglas International Airport with 45 students from Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, a local STEM high school, where industry professionals offered the students a first-hand look at the career possibilities available in business aviation.
SDC participants also displayed their pay-it-forward spirit, gathering more than 1,000 pieces of professional business attire for local charities Dress for Success-Charlotte and Suit Up Charlotte.
Despite the event’s momentum, organizers concluded the full SDC program one day early, when the exhibit floor closed on Thursday, March 12.
NBAA’s public statement about the decision noted that the association’s highest priority remains the health and well-being of participants. With that in mind, the SDC organizers added that their planning was informed in part by a series of continually evolving announcements from several authorities, including the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other public health and aviation-safety experts – all of which were impacting travel planning and other decisions.
“As with all NBAA events, we view our participants as partners whose health, safety and security is always our foremost concern, and that was the guiding principle behind this decision,” noted NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We thank all SDC participants for their support in this challenging environment, and we look forward to welcoming them back for an even better conference in 2021.”