Showy airplanes and their ever-popular parade are returning to Palm Springs, and this time with some nice cars, wine and jewelry in tow.
The 2014 FLYING Aviation Expo swoops into the Coachella Valley Oct. 31-Nov. 2 with dozens of exhibitors, a flurry of speakers and numerous seminars and classes zeroing in on everything from pilot skills to airplane maintenance — and yes, there will be wine-tastings as well.
“The FLYING Aviation Expo is keeping a strong aviation core with leading workshops and seminars. However, we are putting a lifestyle twist on our event, which means bringing in high-end cars, wine tasting and high-end jewelry,” said Marco Parrotto, president of Lift Event Management, which along with Urban Expositions and “Flying” magazine is producing the expo.
The Aviation Expo will follow much the same format as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association summit last in Palm Springs in October 2012. That event, which attracted upwards of 10,000 was Palm Springs’ largest convention. AOPA made plans to return to Palm Springs for its 2014 meeting.
Then in September last year, the organization canceled its 2014 national-scale meeting in Palm Springs, opting instead for smaller gatherings around the country.
The decision came as a blow to local tourism officials. In February this year, the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism announced a new aviation summit would be coming to Palm Springs, securing dates not only in 2014, but 2015 and 2016 as well.
Like the AOPA event, the Aviation Expo will open with its Parade of Planes through the streets of Palm Springs on Thursday. More than 80 planes will taxi from Palm Springs International Airport to the Palm Springs Convention Center, starting at 10 a.m., a display that is always a community favorite. Having a convention center, airport and downtown all so close together is what makes the Parade of Planes possible, said James Canfield, executive director of the Palm Springs Convention Center, a small detail not lost on the aviators and part of the reason Palm Springs was one of AOPA’s favorite stops, say tourism officials.
“Planes will be on display in the streets around the convention center through Sunday and will return to the airport Sunday afternoon,” said Canfield, explaining the layout of the conference. “Exhibits will also be inside the convention center along with seminars and workshops.”
The event will have a “heavy aviation focus,” Canfield added. “But because they are not limited by AOPA membership, they have also added some lifestyle components to the event that they feel complement the private pilot lifestyle: Exotic and collectable cars, fine wine tastings, jewelry, fashion, etc.”
Social events like happy hour with Amelia Rose Earhart Renaissance Palm Springs and a Halloween-themed party at the Palm Springs Air Museum are part of the festivities.
Aviation Expo will occupy the entire convention center, and has blocked out rooms in five area hotels. Attendance is expected to be from 5,000 to 7,000, said Parrotto.
“Last count as of yesterday, (Wednesday,) they had picked up 750 Room nights out of 1,150 which is pretty good,” remarked Aftab Dada, general manger for the Hilton Palm Springs. “The major hotels have agreed to accept additional reservations as late as next week. My guess is the pick up will be closer to 850 or 75 percent of the block, which is awesome.”
The event also falls on Halloween weekend, which tends to draw large crowds to the desert. B.B.’s 30th annual Halloween Bash is set for Friday, Oct. 31 at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs.
When asked why the group looked to Palm Springs for its first Aviation Summit, Parrotto’s answer was breezy.
“Who wouldn’t want to come to Palm Springs in October,” he remarked. “Palm Springs has the perfect demographics for what we are trying to promote.”