When John Cohen attended a major aviation show in Oshkosh, Wis. last summer, he saw a long line of enthusiasts eager to check out the new HondaJet that is being developed at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro.
“There had to be hundreds of people in line, waiting to get inside the tent just so they could see the new HondaJet and the Honda exhibit,” said Cohen, an aviation enthusiast and the former co-CEO of Greensboro-based Carlyle & Co. jewelry retailer.
But when he asked people standing in line whether they knew where the HondaJet is made, they said no.
“I probably asked a dozen people at random in this line who were all passionate about the jet. No one knew where the jet was made,” Cohen said. “And that really got my attention.”
To help promote North Carolina and the Triad as an aviation hub where innovations like the HondaJet are being built, Cohen and pilot Len Leggette, who flies with an aerobatic team called Team AeroDynamix, teamed up to launch Aviation North Carolina.
It’s a website and newsletter designed to bring greater awareness of the importance of aviation to North Carolina’s economy and the employment opportunities available across the state and the Triad. The website, located atwww.aviationnorthcarolina.com, features aviation articles, job opportunities, and other information. Users can subscribe for immediate updates as well as a free monthly newsletter.
Cohen said there are already several groups across the state working to promote and attract aviation industry. But the ambition of Aviation North Carolina is to do a better job of educating people in the state and the Triad about the importance of aviation and help them become fluid and familiar with all aspects of the industry, he said.
“There wasn’t an easy way for people in our community to sort of get current and stay current on aviation happenings,” Cohen said.
Cohen, who with Leggette invested a few thousand dollars into the effort, said the website is not a for-profit effort. But there’s enough interest and traffic to the site that the two men are in conversations with some potential advertisers.
“We’d like it to be sustainable,” he said.
Leggette said the initiative started off as a newsletter called Aviation in the Triad a year-and-a-half ago, but the name switched to Aviation North Carolina earlier this year.
The idea is to promote aviation not only in the Triad but across the state.
While many other states such as Virginia, Ohio and Kansas proactively promote themselves as aviation hubs, Leggette believes North Carolina can do even more to get the word out about its growing aviation industry, which is home to Honda Aircraft Co., maker of the HondaJet, HAECO Americas, B/E Aerospace, Purolator and others.
“We are the state that is first in flight and of all the states that have something to brag about, I think we have a major thing to brag about, “Leggette said.
As a pilot with Team AeroDynamix who performs at air shows across the country, Leggette regularly sees other states promote their aviation industries.
“We see a large presence, and this is also in media too, whether it’s online or magazines that we are getting,” Leggette said. “There is a promotion by those states of aviation and the great impact that aviation has for those states and local communities.”