King Air Gathering 2023 was one for the books. For three amazing days, April 12-14, close to 300 King Air enthusiasts had a top-tier conference experience at the World Golf Resort in St. Augustine, Florida.
Arrivals began on April 11th with attendees landing at Sky Harbor FBO at Jacksonville Airport, FL and were shuttled to the World Golf Resort in St. Augustine, Florida.
An arriving guest is greeted warmly by the King Air Nation team
The flight line was a thing of beauty
On the first day, Erik Eliel, Founder and President of Radar Training International taught a radar course. The course was a special sign up for attendees interested and included a lunch. Eliel would be the first of many expert level speakers that were brought into the conference to provide the highest tier of technical King Air related knowledge.
Erik Eliel teaching the special radar course
That evening, the full force of attendees had arrived for the welcome reception sponsored by Raisbeck Engineering.
"It had been a very windy day. Then, all of a sudden, when we began the reception, the wind calmed down and it became the most beautiful day," noted David Johnson, Marketing Director for King Air Nation. "It was a very social atmosphere; friends and acquaintances talking and catching up, everyone having a really good time."
Beautiful skies perfectly framed the jovial atmosphere
On Thursday, the day would begin with a generous breakfast spread, sponsored by CAMP International. The World Golf Resort would be the provider of all the breakfast and lunches (lunch both days was sponsored by Pratt & Whitney) for the conference and had a staff that provided excellent service. Johnson noted the friendliness of the staff: They learned attendees names while providing information about the conference and answering any questions.
After some brief welcome remarks from King Air Nation, the first speaker of the day would be legendary aviator Brian Shul. It was a packed house as the audience laughed and were in awe of Shul's incredible stories; including flying the SR-71 Blackbird. After his presentation, Shul sold autographed copies of his photo book. He sold out within 10 minutes.
Shul giving his presentation
Erik Eliel would return to speak in a session entitled "Better Good Than Lucky." Afterwards, a lunch was provided and a time to visit the expansive vendor exhibit hall was given (see sponsors list at end of article to see who all exhibited). A common thread throughout the conference was the incredible business and networking activities that it provided; including business to business, all centered around the King Air.
There were excellent opportunities to meet directly with the biggest names in the King Air industry
Tom Clements, Garmin, Pratt & Whitney and Textron Aviation would have presentations over the next several hours. The level of expertise provided regarding King Air was absolutely unparalleled. After a day of in-depth learning, attendees were treated to a cocktail hour sponsored by Blackhawk.
A delicious dinner was next, sponsored by Textron Aviation. A video was played, detailing the non-profits that would receive a portion of funds from the upcoming auction. These included Mission Aviation Fellowship, Compassion International, and the Victims of the Tornados in Rolling Fork, MS.
Immaculate, high end presentation all around
A full house
After the dinner, there was some light entertainment - a video of many of the attendees King Air landings in the days prior. Johnson noted it was a hit with the crowd:
"The video was very popular as many pilots have never seen themselves land their aircraft. The crowd enjoyed the videos so much they collectively moved to cheers for the landings they thought were perfect."
King Air Gathering 2023 Recap.mp4 from King Air Nation on Vimeo.
It was then time for the main event of the evening, the live auction featuring some exemplary items, exclusive to KAG attendees. Bill Alberts (Bill Alberts Consulting), who managed the conference, was the auctioneer.
"Bill kept things interesting throughout the auction," said Johnson. "People loved it. He at one point even convinced an owner to donate a sparkly jacket to the auction the owner was wearing. Bill would then proceed to auction it off for $400 - to the great delight of the crowd."
Bill Alberts pulled out all the stops on keeping the crowd entertained
Smiles and laughs all around
The sparkly jacket gets modeled
The auction perfectly capped the evening. The next morning, the final day of the conference would begin. Speakers would include Dr. Quay Snyder, Dr. Scott Dennstaedt, Peter Basile (Textron/Cessna Safety Team), MT Propeller, Chip McClure and Dean Benedict. A special King Air Hall of Fame recognition ceremony would take place, with honor being bestowed on exemplary figures in the King Air world, past and present.
Kevin Carson of King Air Academy presents at the King Air Hall of Fame ceremony
Also, taking place on Friday, the companions of attendees were having a special outing to St. Augustine. They had lunch and toured the city learning its' history. The previous day, they had enjoyed a tasting/cooking experience hosted by world renown celebrity Chef Amanda Freitag (arranged by Textron Aviation). A storm rolled through the area, briefly knocking out the lights.
"She (Chef Amanda) didn't miss a beat - she was cooking on a gas burner," laughed Johnson. "The ladies in the room turned on the flashlights on their phones and it was like a concert with 25 phones illuminating. It was a very interactive and engaging experience."
The companions enjoy lunch in historic St. Augustine
Chef Amanda Freitag gives her demonstration, including briefly with the lights out
As the conference winded down, it was clear there had been something for everyone.
"It certainly was a fun conference," noted Johnson. "We also strove to not miss out on the details; providing the highest level of expertise concerning all things King Air. I also cannot overstate the amazing business opportunities and partnerships that were forged; including friendships that could easily last a lifetime."
Johnson went on to comment that on the final evening of the conference, a contingent of 40 to 50 people continued to linger, staying up late, with no desire to leave. Owners, operators, and vendors hung out, talking life, talking business, having in-depth conversations, and recounting memories all centered around the King Air.
King Air Gathering attendees congregate in the resort lobby
"We sent out a survey to attendees after the conference - the reviews we received back were by and large 5 stars (out of 5)," said Johnson. "The common refrain was "we can't wait till next year.""
Additionally, sponsor response has been remarkably positive. Sponsorship requests for King Air Gathering 2024 have already been coming in.
King Air Gathering 2024 will be taking place May 15-18th at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. We will be providing more information over the coming months and of course will announce when registration is open. Stayed tuned to our website www.kingairnation.com and our social media channels so you don't miss out.
Author: Scott Cooper (King Air Nation Communication Specialist)
King Air 2023 sponsors: