Opening day in the exhibit hall at AOPA Expo 2005 resembles the opening of a Broadway play: Just before the doors open, exhibitors are rushing back and forth making last-minute adjustments to elaborate displays. When the curtain goes up - when the exhibit hall opens to Expo attendees at 10 a.m. - the players are ready as the excited audience streams through the doors.
This year's exhibit hall in the Tampa Convention Center features a cast of more than 1,700 exhibit personnel staffing 540 booths with thousands of products to display. Everything for the pilot and aircraft is available to try on for size, including headsets and GPS receivers, sunglasses and sun shields, flight bags and tires. There's even a healthy selection of cockpits available for the crowds to investigate, including Liberty Aircraft's newly certified IFR version of the XL.
Exhibitors were enthusiastic about opening day and the venue itself. Neil Glaser, president of PilotMall.com, commented that the timing of the show "is great" for him, as he readies to open on November 15 a new 1,500-square-foot "pilot superstore" at Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida. Expo visitors get a chance to view a sample of PilotMall.com's retail selection in advance of the opening, he noted.
Expo Platinum Sponsor DTC DUAT offered visitors an Internet café for the second year in a row. Strategically located in the center of the exhibit hall, the kiosks allow users to check weather, file flight plans, and view their e-mail - some even took advantage of the opportunity to file their ADIZ comments after Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced a deadline extension. "Everyone seems to congregate here," said Jeff Hathaway of DTC DUAT. He added that the kiosks are a good way for pilots to learn about DTC DUAT's free weather briefing and flight planning services, which feature graphic depictions of temporary flight restrictions "like this one," he said, pointing to a TFR over Walt Disney World in Orlando.
ELITE Simulation Solutions was one of numerous vendors that brought an elaborate display of software and hardware for potential customers to try. ELITE, based in Orlando, manufactures flight simulation software and flight training devices. Surveying the array of displays at the ELITE exhibit, President John Dixon said the decision on which products to bring hinges on logistics, including how much the vendor wants to carry, and the cost of shipping and set-up.
New to AOPA Expo this year is InDUS Aviation of Dallas, Texas, which manufactures the Sky Shooter and Thorpedo light sport aircraft. Scott Severin, director of sales and marketing (North America), said InDUS is showing Expo visitors an upgrade for the Thorpedo's panel - an electronic engine performance observation deck, or ePod, that will monitor rpm, fuel quantity and flow, cylinder head temperature, exhaust gas temperature, oil temperature, and oil pressure. The data can be downloaded via a USB port, he said, and it can also be merged with an Excel program so that a student can track his or her hours using an electronic logbook application.
November 3, 2005