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2019 Mid America Aerospace and Defense Summit Exceeds Expectations

The Arkansas Aerospace & Defense Alliance recently held the Mid-America Aerospace and Defense Summit in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on April 23rd-25th. This was our most well-attended summit with over 250 attendees from Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Attendees included representatives from alliance members such as Dassault Falcon Jet, Lockheed Martin, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

This was AADA’s first summit with a regional focus, as our past annual Arkansas Aerospace Summit is focused on the local aerospace industry. Arkansas’s number one export is aerospace, which emphasizes why the regional aerospace summit was needed to help build out-of-state connections for Arkansas companies. The event highlighted our region’s strong presence and our potential for growth in the global aerospace and defense markets. The aim of this new regional trade show was to provide a forum and opportunities for aerospace and defense companies in mid-America to come together. These companies were able to exchange everything from business cards to innovative ideas on workforce and education, with the goal of growing opportunities for aerospace and defense in our region of the country.

The summit had a great lineup and featured speakers such as Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, Congressman Steve Womack, and Governor Asa Hutchinson, who was the keynote speaker. The summit also included trade show exhibitions, presentations, and learning sessions. Topics for the summit included Economic Development Opportunities in Mid-America; Canada-Arkansas Trade Relations-Aerospace and Defense Opportunities; Airport as Economic Engines; Legal Issue within the Aerospace Industry; and Cybersecurity Issues in Aerospace and Defense, among others.

The summit also included the Bob East Accelerator Award, which went to Robin Pelton of National Park College. Robin exemplifies the award through her stellar career working for and with the aerospace and defense industry here in Arkansas. The Accelerator Award is given to someone who has made a significant contribution to the growth of aerospace and defense in Arkansas. The award is named for Bob East, a business owner and former member of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission, who was instrumental in establishing the AADA.

Outlook for Defense Spending in 2018 with Rep. Womack. 

Steve Womack Official Portrait 112th Congress Hi ResWith Arkansas being home to a significant defense-industry that is continuing to expand on an international basis, many recent questions are focusing not only on the importance and necessity of defense spending within the state, but also consequences from a Congressional level. In talking with Representative Womack regarding defense spending, we shine a light on some of the current benefits that defense industries are or will be experiencing throughout the state, and some of the hurdles coming in the future. 

How are current Congressional actions related to defense spending benefiting Arkansas? To begin, the passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 58th straight year ensures first that the Department of Defense (DoD) and all of its components are fully authorized, and second, that Congress is conducting its constitutionally mandated oversight of our national defense.Womack stated, “One of Congress’ most fundamental duties is to ‘provide for the common defense’ of our nation. The bipartisan NDAA focuses on restoring readiness, increasing capability, and reforming the Pentagon to better prepare our country for the threats we face today and the emerging global threats of tomorrow. Congress must continue to support the men and women stationed around the world defending our great nation.”

The necessary increase in defense spending outlined in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 will benefit all entities in the defense industry, including Arkansas servicemen and women, Arkansas military installations, and the Arkansas Aerospace and Defense industry.

Concurrently, there are also efforts developing updates on the current appropriations bill process: defense bill out of committee and awaiting vote on House floor. “Providing for the common defense is a national imperative. Advancing this bill out of committee builds on the significant progress we have made in restoring America’s national defense capability. For the men and women deployed around the globe ready to fight tonight, this bill ensures they are properly manned, trained, and equipped to do our nation’s bidding,” Womack said. 

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Aerospace Trends for 2018

What can be expected in this fiscal year and moving into 2019 for the Aerospace and Defense industry? It’s a question on the minds of all AADA member companies. 

The consensus has been growth, as outlined in the following excerpt from, which predicts that the “industry will strengthen in 2018 as revenues are forecasted to increase by 4.1 percent, doubling last year’s 2.1 percent growth. The recovery of global gross domestic product (GDP), stable commodity prices, and heightened passenger travel demand are likely to ramp up growth in the commercial aircraft sector in 2018.” Additionally, higher defense spending across the globe are likely to drive defense sector revenue growth in 2018 and beyond.

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Flying High with TruTrak

AADA TruTrakFounded in 1999, TruTrak Flight Systems is a leader and innovator in the experimental, light sport, and certified aircraft autopilot market. TruTrak introduced the first digital autopilot (and the now standard autopilot) servo for use in light aircraft. TruTrak autopilots are installed in a large variety of experimental aircraft, and are currently approved for installations in over 60 certified aircrafts. TruTrak was founded by Jim Younkin and Chuck Bilbe in 1999; by March 2000 they had produced their first prototypes of the DFC 250 and Digital Basic Servo. Andrew Barker, current President and CEO, was hired as TruTrak’s first employee in September 2000

As Barker gained experience and ownership of the company over time, he understood the feedback from their current clientele, and undertook the task of gaining approval to install their system in certified aircraft. About two years previous, the Experimental Aircraft Association catalyzed a more economical pathway to move experimental parts into the certified world. Barker said seeing this goal come to fruition was his passion. Thanks to Barker’s leadership, TruTrak has seen tremendous growth in the last 6 months, having more than doubled the number of aircraft for which their autopilot system is suitable. Barker also said that it was all possible thanks to the Arkansas World Trade Center and the Arkansas Aerospace and Defense Alliance, helping to connect Barker with the right people. 

TruTrak prides itself in its customer service and support; it drives their positive business reputation. They work to improve and understand the importance of service after sale. Following up with clients to answer questions and check in regularly. TruTrak strives for the long-term relationship with their clients, regardless if they do it directly or not. Barker recounted how a now friend-once-customer has bought six autopilots for aircrafts he’s owned and built over the years. “We see a lot of that,” Barker explained regarding how when they install TruTrak into one craft, “they love the product and keep installing in their other aircrafts!”

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