See how Orlando helped bring actual aircraft into the Orange County Convention Center, proving the country’s No. 1 meetings destination can handle shows of all sizes.


Following 2018’s National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in October, NBAA leadership and attendees had high praise for Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). What’s more, the business aviation community’s premier annual event filled the convention center with actual aircraft!

“The people that come here are interested in products, they’re interested in services, they’re interested in technology,” says Ed Bolen, NBAA president & CEO. “And you can only do so much with a screen or chalkboard. People want to feel what they’re going to be involved with when they get into an airplane. So, having real aircraft, helicopters [and] fixed-wing airplanes inside the convention center, is something really special.

“It’s also something really hard, and that’s where Orlando really steps up and helps us succeed.”

This feat was made possible not just by the OCCC’s ample exhibition space and ease of access, but also herculean efforts on the part of the City of Orlando and Orange County in facilitating the transport of aircraft from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to the convention center — by way of the destination’s public roadways. Read on to see how we made it happen, and why no request is too big for Orlando.

No Meeting Destination Soars Higher Than Orlando

Orange County Convention Center in Orlando
Orange County Convention Center in Orlando

With approximately 13 miles separating MCO and the OCCC, and no direct private route between the two, moving aircraft from one to the other without the convenience of flight is obviously no simple task. But as the NBAA and participating businesses discovered, Orlando was more than up to the challenge.

“The city is willing to move signs [and] help with police escorts,” says Bolen. “In fact, [they] do really kind of a rolling roadblock to help us get to the convention center.”

Geoffrey Hedrick, CEO of Innovative Solutions & Support Inc., which is a key exhibitor at NBAA-BACE, was equally impressed. “What they do essentially is close down all the roads between the airport and the convention hall, and then they tow the airplane through town,” he says. “But that’s not a non-trivial problem, because you have lampposts and things all over. It’s a big deal.”

Of course, getting helicopters and planes into the OCCC was only part of what the NBAA needed for a successful show. Achieving their goals also required an industry-leading convention center and dedicated, knowledgeable support staff — and they found both in Orlando.

World-Class Conventions Deserve a World-Class Meetings Destination

Inside the Orange County Convention Center's North/South Exhibit Hall
Inside the Orange County Convention Center’s North/South Exhibit Hall

Producing a convention as large and intricate as NBAA-BACE takes a massive effort not just on the part of show organizers, but on the hosting city as well. In the end, the NBAA was ecstatic over the level of support they received from the Orange County Convention Center and Visit Orlando.

“[An event like ours] means the convention center and everybody involved needs to be thoughtful, thorough and well-planned,” says Bolen. “And what we’ve found is, those challenges are not only met [in Orlando], but they’re met with enthusiasm and professionalism, and that’s what keeps us coming back.”

On top of expert assistance from Visit Orlando’s Destination Services Team, NBAA-BACE benefitted from the OCCC itself. In addition to its 2.1 million square feet of convention space, the center boasts 480,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, as well as ease of access and plenty of state-of-the-art extras.

“What’s important for us are the details,” says Bolen. “So, when we see doors wide enough for us to bring helicopters and airplanes inside [and] the processes that are set up to support that infrastructure — that’s something very unique and very special about coming to the Orange County Convention Center.”

And according to Bolen, it’s not just NBAA leadership that’s thrilled with this city. “I’ll tell you what convention-goers tell us: Keep coming back to Orlando,” he says. “They love it.”

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