The event isn’t pitched to the public. “There isn’t an air show, and no funnel cakes,” joked Bolinger. But it is open to all comers, free of charge, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Many milling around Friday were just looking, not shopping. Others, such as Tommy Corbin, were conflicted. He flew in Thursday from Houston by commercial jet -- because “It’s faster and you can relax” -- to check out the newest models.
He owns an 1967 Cessna, which cost about $70,000, and was eyeballing a $4.25 million, Swiss-made Pilatus turbo-prop. “I’m really more in the market for a Cessna 206, six-seater,” he said. That model sells for about $500,000.
Trey McKnight and wife Jamie, on the other hand, were half-seriously sizing up the Pilatus. She tried out the back seats, he settled into the cockpit. They were more likely to put $3.2 million into the Beechcraft King Air sitting across the lot.
“I probably won’t buy it now. We just got married, and you know those expenses,” he said. “But maybe in a couple of years.” He said he likes the freedom and thrill of flying his own plane, and he’d use it for business.
Promoters sent mailers to 50,000 prospective customers and expect about 1,500 will show up for the three-day event. It wasn’t clear Friday afternoon if anyone had yet signed on the bottom line, but accountant Louis M. Meinters Jr., was on hand in a nearby tent to help with the particulars.
“You’re going to be able to write off half the purchase in this year’s taxes, plus the rest of it over five years,” he said, but only if the jet is used to generate a certain amount of business income. “That’s the catch.”
Still, said pilot Gene Kenneford, the show had produced “good leads” for Cessna’s sales team. One test-flew a $2.9 million Cessna Citation Mustang jet with Kenneford on Thursday morning. The customer rode as passenger in the back, and later in the flight as co-pilot.
“It was a good run,” said Kenneford of the hour-long test drive, during which they cruised at 390 mph in the sleek twin-jet.“Just up to Tennessee and back.”