Thursday, September 26, 2013
Pilots, plane-builders, airport managers and others involved in just about every facet of Kansas' aviation industry are in Wichita for the rest of the week.
The Kansas Aviation Expo kicked off Thursday at the National Center for Aviation Training and continues through the Wichita Flight Festival.
The inaugural expo is bringing the stakeholders together to discuss and learn about the latest challenges and opportunities facing one of the state's largest industries.
"It is the second-largest driver to the state's economy," Jesse Romo, Acting Director of the Kansas Department of Transportation's Division of Aviation.
Aviation accounts for billions of dollars in the Kansas economy. That activity is not limited to the manufacturing sector.
"We have 140 public use airports in the state of Kansas that serve all sorts of needs across the state," Romo said. "Businesses, some critical services such as air ambulance service to our rural communities."
The Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education have launched the Kansas Aviation Expo to focus on the health of aviation in the state.
Thursday's kick-off spekeaker was Cessna Aircraft CEO Scott Earnest, who said the international general aviation market is still a tough one to navigate. Earnest said Cessna has usually sold 30 business jets to South American businesses by this point each year.
"That market has dried up and I think we've sold one jet there this year," he said.
However, Ernest said, that does not mean Cessna and its parent company, Textron, plan to slow down.
"In this type of business, you either invest or you end up in a pretty bad situation, so you have to continue to invest in your products," he told the crowd.
Organizers of the aviation expo hope the industry will continue to invest in the summit.
"We're happy to put this together and be the first event and hopefully it takes off and becomes an annual tradition," Romo said.
Some of the workshop and discussion topics Friday include fuel taxes, the future of air traffic controllers at some Kansas airports and the challenge of getting more young people interested in general aviation to offset an aging and decreasing pilot population.