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Business as usual for AirVenture exhibitors
By Meghan Plummer and Katie Wainfan

Despite the rain, exhibitors have enjoyed good business. Photo by Amy Gesch

Vendors in the four Exhibit Hangars say things are going well for them this year. Photo by DeKevin Thornton

With clouds looming overhead, exhibitor areas were quiet Saturday morning with far fewer guests than mornings earlier in the week.

However, exhibitors said business was pretty average as compared to past years, though it was iffy the first few days due to the rainy weather.

At the Zenith Aircraft display, Sebastian Heintz, owner of the company, said business was going well. "We were all worried at the beginning of the week," Heintz said, pointing out that their display area was covered in water when they arrived last Saturday.

Feelings were similar at the Van's Aircraft tent.

Gus Funnell of Van's said business may have been a little slower because fewer pilots flew in due to the weather and condition of the grounds. Funnell said the Van's display area "was a swamp" when they arrived, and setting up "was a nasty experience."

Despite early worries, business went on as usual for the exhibitors.

Good traffic
Funnell said business is down a little from peak years, but traffic was about average.

"We sell a lot of kits when we introduce a new model," Funnell said. In past years when there was a new Van's model, Funnell said they sold about 40 kits; this year, they've sold about 15 kits.

Next year, Funnell said Van's will probably have some new products.

Back at the Zenith exhibit, Heintz said there were a lot of people visiting and a lot of interest in Zenith kits. As for sales, Heintz said he views EAA AirVenture Oshkosh more as a venue to promote the product rather than a sales venue.

The Zenith exhibit allows guests to sit in the airplanes and do some comparison shopping, Heintz said, adding that he often encourages customers to go home and decide on purchases so they can make more rational choices.

"A lot of the guys are like kids in candy stores out here," Heintz said. "They want two of everything."

Heintz said he has been coming to EAA AirVenture for more than 20 years.

"Oshkosh is kind of the start and end of our fiscal year," Heintz said, adding that they plan new products around the convention. "This week on the calendar is always set in stone."

Action on The Farm
In the Ultralight area, exhibitors noted an upturn in visitors.

Travis Brown of Kolb Aircraft noted a lot of interest in their planes.

"We were up in the GA area for the past three years," Travis said, "things seem to be going better up here. "We're getting back to what it was like pre-9/11."

Jeff Jensen from Comtronics has also seen an increase in foot traffic down on The Farm.

Sales, however, have not followed the trend. "We wish sales were better," he said. "Right now, they're about average."

Karen Oltman of Quad City Ultralights thought that things were going well-they have already sold an airplane during the show. Nonetheless, she says there are less people than last year. "Last year we were swamped," she said.

Mainline improvements ...
Back in main commercial-area exhibit hangars, things are also going well, vendors reported.

David McLain from Icom said that things were "way better" than last year. He cited a promotion they have where customers who buy their product from any distributor at EAA AirVenture can bring their receipts in for a free flight bag.

So far, they have given away more than 400.

Sarasota Avionics International's Kirk Fryar says he's noticed a lot more international visitors at AirVenture this year and a lot more people in general.

"This is the most fun we've had in 10 years," he said, "and the volunteers at the gate have been really helpful."

Sherpa Turbine moved to a new spot in the exhibit area this year, but what was initially a concern ended up being a good thing. "At first I wasn't happy that they moved me," Glen Gordon said, "but this spot is looking to be better than last year."

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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