When it comes to business-aviation shows, NBAA-BACE is the granddaddy of them all. It is by far the largest of all the shows but unlike ABACE and EBACE it rotates through different cities.
There are unfortunately only two convention centres left in the US that are big enough to handle a show the size of NBAA-BACE. Whereas the show used to rotate through Las Vegas, Orlando and New Orleans, hurricane Katrina ensured that it can now only be held in Vegas or Orlando.
This year it is the turn of Orlando.
To adapt a line from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the Orange County Convention Centre where NBAA-BACE is held is big, really big. It also has a north entrance and a south entrance and choosing the wrong entrance to get to your first meeting can waste a lot of time.
If it is the first show you have been to, entering through either entrance can be daunting. And exhausting, as there are a bunch of steps to walk up. If you’re not from a place that enjoys similar climes as Orlando, then you’re likely to find it hot.
Much like the Vegas show, the static display of aircraft is in a completely different location to the main exhibition halls, so it’s necessary to catch a shuttle bus, or taxi, between the two. Whilst it only takes around 20 minutes to get between the two by shuttle, it can get annoying as you’ll need to plan your time according, ensuring that you don’t schedule meetings in both locations straight after each other.
In practical terms, we normally find it best to concentrate on one location on one day, and then the next the following day. But of course that’s not always possible.
The great thing about the NBAA is that it’s the annual show that everybody wants to visit. As such, it’s a great meeting place. The social scene at the show is also lively, and it’s not unusual to hop between parties in the evening. Fortunately, Orlando itself is relatively small, but don’t make the mistake of deciding to go into the city centre if you have some spare time, as not only is it tiny, but there’s also very little there.
The exception to this is when the local Orlando Magic basketball team is playing. With the Amway Centre in mid-city, the area is busy with sports fans stopping off on the way to the game for some liquid refreshment, and then celebrating or drowning their sorrows after the game has finished. If you’ve never been to a basketball game before, Orlando is a great opportunity to do so. But although your hotel concierge can help secure tickets, it’s always much cheaper to look online for ticket returns.
There are several hotels adjoining the convention centre, although they tend to be on the pricey side. The good news, however, is that Orlando is stuffed with hotels catering to all budgets.
Wherever you stay, you become accustomed to International Drive, or I-Drive as they call it locally. Not only is it the road that heads straight past the convention centre, but it’s also home to many of the hotels you could be staying at or attending parties at.
Orlando is, of course, home to a certain mouse, and it’s hard to escape Disney, even if you try. Although Orlando can seem like Mouseworld, there are other attractions in town as well. There’s Harry Potter World – though it’s a far cry from Hogwarts and you don’t take the train from Platform 9 3/4.