Airplane GEEK

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Exhibitors Excited to Reconnect With Aviation Family

By Barbara A. Schmitz

For some exhibitors at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021, it’s not about the money or sales.

Okay, it is about the money and sales. But it is also about the chance to reconnect with friends, customers, vendors, and others.

“It feels good to be back,” said Mark Miller, director of maintenance at Sport Air USA. “It is so nice to see people out and about and have things get back to normal or as normal as possible.”

exhibitors excited to reconnect with aviation family Airplane GEEK Exhibitors Excited to Reconnect With Aviation Family
Maddow Brantley, 10, of Greensboro, Arkansas, holds a stake upright as Mike Miller, director of maintenance for Sport Air USA, pounds it securely into the ground as they work on setting up their exhibit Saturday.

Sport Air USA has been an AirVenture exhibitor for 20-plus years and sells aircraft from the Czech Republic. This year, it has three used planes on display and for sale, as the Czech Republic has been hard hit by COVID-19 and the supply of new planes is limited.

Miller said he is looking forward to interacting with current and future owners and potential customers during the fly-in convention, and regaining that sense of community lost in 2020. “I haven’t seen these people for two years. It will be so nice to see customers that I could only talk to on the phone.”

Greg Robbins, sales manager for ASA, or Aviation Supplies & Academics Inc., agrees.

“It is good to be back and seeing old friends from the industry and customers that we haven’t been able to see for two years,” he said. “It’s truly such a wonderful community.”

Robbins said their goal at AirVenture is to expose people to their products.

“We really want to reengage with our customer base and industry, our friends at EAA and AOPA, the other exhibitors … This is such a tight community, and people are ready to be in close proximity again,” he said. “Doing Zoom calls hasn’t been the same.”

He said he has a “good feeling” that Oshkosh will be a “really good show.”

“We are social people, and we really need this show,” Robbins said. “I am so glad that EAA has taken precautions that are allowing us to gather and celebrate aviation together.”

Tonya Hensley, owner of Hazebuster, also expects the fly-in convention to be a good one for business.

“I assume it will be busy since there are no spectators at the Olympics,” she said. “Plus, people are wanting to participate again and get things back to normal.”

Hazebuster sells aviation sunglasses and has been an AirVenture exhibitor for 30-plus years. Hensley remembers having to join EAA that first year so she could camp in Camp Scholler. Why does she come back each year?

“It’s exciting to be a part of a world-class event,” Hensley said. “Plus aviation people are the best you can ask for.”

Hensley said she arrives in Oshkosh mid-June or earlier since they have four exhibits to setup. “It’s like setting up for four shows. Coordinating this is a super big deal and something I plan for year-round.”

exhibitors excited to reconnect with aviation family 1 Airplane GEEK Exhibitors Excited to Reconnect With Aviation Family
Melanie Lewis answers questions as Scott Olef, EAA 117189, of Aurora, Illinois, looks at Spencer Aircraft’s bikes.

Duane Wetherbee of Spencer Aircraft Supply has been an AirVenture exhibitor for 10 years. He always hires local people to work the exhibit as he likes to support the Oshkosh community, he said.

Wetherbee was so optimistic that 2021 will be a great year that he added an additional exhibit booth at AirVenture, bringing him up to four exhibit spaces for the company that offers bikes, chairs, solar panel lights, and much more.

“It’s all about people getting to know more about us,” he said.

First-time exhibitor TurbAero has similar goals: to let potential customers learn about them and their turboprop engine.

Berni Breen, head of sales, said they’ve been at AirVenture in the past, but not in a display capacity.

“We’re not selling anything,” he said. “We are here to inform.”

Its turboprop engine for sub-300-hp aircraft is in final development, and TurbAero hopes to have a product ready to test in early 2022 so it can begin deliveries in early 2023. People will be able to place a hold in the production line, but no payment will be required, and people can cancel that hold at any time, or eventually convert it to an order, Breen said.

Founder Dave Limmer, of Australia, had hoped to attend AirVenture, but couldn’t due to COVID restrictions, he said.

Breen said what makes their engine different is its heat exchanger, creating a “secret sauce” that allows it to be significantly more fuel efficient.

AirVenture’s tightknit community can’t be easily explained or understood by nonaviation enthusiasts. But that is what makes it so exciting to be at AirVenture as an exhibitor, he said.

“People want to be around aviation and talk about aviation, and they are interested in your success as much as their own,” Breen said.


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