What I learned by attending the Aircraft Electronics Association Annual Convention

I had the pleasure of attending the 64th annual Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) Convention and Trade Show the week of June 21 in Dallas, Texas. To begin and most important, it was the first major, in-person aviation event I’ve attended since the pandemic and wow, how refreshing to be back in the company of fellow aviators while surrounded by positive, innovative news from the avionics industry.

The AEA Convention is the largest gathering of general aviation avionics manufacturers, distributors and service providers in the world. It’s often the platform new product and service announcements. But the event’s primary focus is providing avionics professionals with educational and marketing opportunities. Here’s what I learned:

Collaboration and training are keys to success and innovation. The ability to gather, work and socialize with like-minded aviation professionals provides a unique opportunity for creative thought, innovation, and critical feedback. The more than 100 hours of regulatory, technical and business training ensures those technicians in the field are able to provide safe accurate solutions and the latest technology to make our time on the flight deck safer and more fun.

New product introductions continue despite a pandemic. More than 30 companies participated in the new product introduction session. Introductions included hardware/software updates to the S-TEC 3100 autopilot; Avidyne announced the certification of a new SkyTrax dual-band ADS-B receiver; Appareo announced its newest flight data monitoring product – the AIRS-400; MidContinent discussed its new Chronos line of digital clocks and USB chargers; and Aspen Avionics announced standard synthetic vision on all its MAX displays among many other introductions. You can view the opening session here:

The FAA announced it has accepted the AEA’s avionics technician apprenticeship program to satisfy regulatory compliance for the issuance of a repairman certificate. AEA-member repair stations now have another tool to recruit and train technicians. An adequate workforce to keep our aircraft flying is a critical need for a healthy aviation industry. According to the highly regarding Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook, 739,000 new aviation technicians will be needed globally over the next 20-year period.

Large weather systems impact the entire system. Even airline travel across the country was disrupted during our travel day thanks to a cold front producing challenging weather conditions from the Midwest and south through Texas. This included severe convective activity, turbulence and other unpleasantries. Those traveling by airline to the convention site unfortunately had flights canceled or significantly delayed. Even by light jet from my Midwest location, we were issued an Expect Departure Clearance Time (EDCT) that resulted in a two-hour ground hold (better than holding or diverting while en route).

An EDCT is the runway release time assigned to aircraft due to Traffic Management Initiatives (TMIs) that require holding aircraft on the ground at the departure airport. When a concern is raised about the traffic situation at a specific airport or sector, a conference is held among affected air traffic facilities and other interested parties to discuss alternatives and modeled scenarios. If the decision is made to implement a TMI requiring aircraft to be held on the ground, EDCTs will be issued.

The delayed and challenging flight down was remedied by blue skies and tailwinds for the trip home!