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Quest News: EAA AirVenture 2009 Recap

Sunday, August 2, 2009...While there was real concern heading into EAA AirVenture 2009 that the down economy would take some exuberance out of the show this year, we certainly didn’t see this in the Quest booth. Oshkosh offers not only a chance to get reacquainted with old friends and connected with new ones…it’s also a great place to check the pulse of the industry. And by all accounts the enthusiasm of the public and the returning confidence of business leaders was extremely encouraging. Here is what we learned this year.

The recession is over!? Well, the enthusiasm of Oshkosh notwithstanding, gleeful observations by many that the recession is over and GA and business jets are “back” is simply wishful thinking by PR departments. Some companies may have restarted production too early. But while backlog has shrunk (massively in some product categories) there are pockets of strength. Ever eager to see bad news behind us it is easy to assume the “good old days” are right around the corner. Here’s our perspective…aviation should take the current situation as an opportunity to retool for a realistic and gradual return to about 80% of 2007 by 2012. Implementing new innovations to reduce cost and improve manufacturability will be the key to moving forward. That said…

The demise of the industry was greatly exaggerated. Many have been in a gloom and doom state about the aircraft business with substantial evidence of sectors showing a downward trend. But hold on, there are a few areas where business is strong (turboprops being one…great news for Quest) so don’t pull your BRS just yet. A 20-year product cycle is impacted by a 3 year recession, but we can ride through quite a bit of turbulence. The real questions are: what will the new aviation market look like in 2011? Which systems and platforms won’t make it and which will? Where should you invest – if you have the cash? It’s clear that the market will become increasingly global and certification organizations like EASA need to take aggressive action to be ready.

Humanitarian / Mission Aviation is alive and well. The FLY4LIFE focus for AirVenture was a great event and well represented by many organizations. Humanity’s saving grace lies in our generosity towards others and the compassion and calling that many feel to extend a helping hand. This belief was evident and impressive as FLY4LIFE represented the legacy of the past 60 years of this work manifest through aviation. Many current efforts were front and center in AeroShell Square. EAA did a fantastic job of supporting those who are part of this focus area and many people who had no experience with humanitarian aviation came away from Oshkosh both informed and touched.

Quest was well represented. The focus on humanitarian and mission work provided a platform for 3 mission organizations to display their KODIAKs. We had 2 customer planes in the booth (one of which will be used for medical missions in Mexico). The Department of Interior also brought the first of 9 KODIAKs they have on order. This year we sponsored an art exhibit at the EAA Museum and once again Quest was on all the kiosks around the grounds. The goal for our first 4 years at EAA has been to create awareness in a crowded market space through brand recognition and commercial acceptance. There are many signs that this awareness has developed substantially in the US but we still have a lot of room to grow. It was exciting to meet with so many customers who are enthusiastic about flying their KODIAKs. And it was encouraging to see that the purposes for which they bought these aircraft are now being realized. Ultimately, our customers are our best spokespeople so we are very excited to hear their stories. This is only the start of our journey – our adventure!

A great time was had by all. Well, at least by Quest and those we talked to! In traditional EAA fashion, Oshkosh offered plenty of opportunity for relationship building and the annual re-acquaintance that makes an event like this such a staple in the industry. There is a growing sense of confidence that the industry is on a path to regain lost ground. In the end it was clear that a spirit of innovation is still alive and well. This will ultimately be a key piece of the puzzle in rebuilding a great industry that continues to solve real problems and offer real benefits.

Thank you for joining us for the ride.
Paul Schaller
President and CEO
Quest Aircraft Company