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Business jets arrive in Las Vegas for big business aviation convention

It’s not every day you get to stand on the tarmac of the Henderson Executive Airport, surrounded by hundreds of millions of dollars of very expensive business aircraft.

Surrounding me is a bit of everything: single-engine aircraft to full-size business jets from Boeing and Airbus.

I’m at the National Business Aviation Association’s Convention and Exhibition, which runs from Tuesday through Thursday at the airport and at the new West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The major players in the business aviation industry are here.

At the Bombardier section at the airport, I walk into a mock-up of the company’s new Challenger 3500, which is expected to enter service near the end of 2022.

“We have brand new seating, technology in the cabin, voice control, wireless chargers. We really try to up the game in this segment,” the company’s Laurence Casia told me.

The 3500 is Bombardier’s upgrade to its Challenger 300 platform, which already has about 900 aircraft in service, Casia says.

It carries 10 people in comfort, with a range of 3,400 nautical miles (3,912 miles).


“This aircraft hits for $26.7 million baseline,” Casia says. Like a car, the options are extra.

Nobody said flying like a tycoon is cheap.

At this convention, bring your checkbook. These planes cost millions, some tens of millions. The industry says for some companies that need to get executives to several cities in a day, and have them stay productive in the process – business aviation is a good value proposition.

About 60 aircraft are expected at the Henderson airport and 15,000 people are expected to attend, which will be a nice economic shot in the arm, says Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft.

The Henderson airport's in his district.

“We saw $40 million of economic input into our community, into Clark County. All could be attributed to the NBAA show,” Naft says.

2019 was the last time the show was here. Its 2020 Orlando meeting got canceled by COVID. In 2021, not only are they here setting up for opening day Tuesday, but this year's show has an environmental twist. The planes that flew here are using sustainable jet fuel.

“So it is a blend of biofuels that actually the airplane doesn't know the difference, but the environment does,” says Ed Bolen, NBAA President, and CEO.

Biofuels, derived from plant, algae material or animal waste, cut emissions by up to 80 percent, Bolen says. He also says the show is using a carbon offset program which will make the convention one of the largest carbon-neutral trade shows in the country.

Business aviation is a $24 billion business. Commercial aviation got clobbered by COVID, but business aviation may have actually gotten a boost as companies see it as a better, smoother, safer way to fly.

“With the fact that commercial aviation was so disrupted with COVID, I think a lot of people are considering business jet travel for the first time and they’re finding that for the time that it will save them, and for the comfort they'll experience, it's well worth it,” says Bombardier’s Louise Solomita.

Not everything here is the latest.

"Miss Virginia" flew in, a DC-3 built in 1944. It does special exhibitions around the country.

“Fifteen of these went to Normandy and did the 2019 flyover of the beaches and it was a really big undertaking. This was one of the 15 - it was part of the D-Day squadron aircraft,” says Shane Combs, with Dynamic Aviation, the company that owns the aircraft. It served as a transport plane during World War II and then took on other roles after the war.

The backdrop for the show is the Henderson Executive Airport, which the county bought in the 1990s as Las Vegas grew and planners wanted to relieve congestion at McCarran International Airport. The county wanted Henderson, like the airport in North Las Vegas, to relieve McCarran of too much general aviation traffic, which could clog what was already a very busy major airport.

Henderson is getting busy, says Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County’s Director of Aviation.

“On weekend events, it’s getting a lot of activity from what’s going on in the town,” she tells me. As proof, she says look at the weekend when Allegiant Stadium hosted Garth Brooks and other top venues also had events.

“Truly McCarran filled up 100% for general aviation and so the spillover was to this – we were at 90%,” Vassiliadis says, referring to Henderson.

S: 3NBC News

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