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November 25, 2014

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Aviation Nation may just be the beginning

Military aircraft will be in the spotlight at this weekend's Aviation Nation air show at Nellis Air Force Base.

But years from now, local aviation officials are hoping thousands will come to Las Vegas for an event rivaling the famed Paris Air Show that would feature all types of aircraft and the newest technology.

Lawmakers took a major step toward developing such an exhibition at a proposed airport south of Las Vegas by approving an appropriations bill containing a $1 million grant for the Clark County Aviation Department to draft a feasibility study.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Harry Reid said the legislation is expected to clear the Senate next week and head to President Bush for his signature.

"It would be a huge economic boost for Southern Nevada," Reid spokeswoman Tessa Hafen said. "We're always interested in projects that would help diversify the economy, and a show like this would be a big boost toward accomplishing this goal. Las Vegas is one of the few places with the infrastructure that can accommodate something like this. We want it to be something the people of Nevada would be proud of."

Rosemary Vassiliadis, deputy director of the Aviation Department, said while airport officials have not actively pursued grant money to study the feasibility of staging an air show at the proposed Ivanpah Valley airport, the economic benefit to the community makes the project worthwhile.

"We're aware of the senator's interest in the project and received a call from his office about the appropriations bill," Vassiliadis said. "We certainly have the hotel rooms for all the people that would be interested in this, and I'm sure it would draw an international audience. That's something that really makes it appealing."

Vassiliadis said the grant is an important first step in the process and that once the county secures the funds, it would probably take at least three to four months to write a request for proposals to study the feasibility of staging a major event.

"It's a starting point to look at the needs, the impact on the community, some of the environmental issues and what would be necessary for staging such an event," she said.

Vassiliadis said once a request for proposals is developed, the county would award a bid and that it probably would take nine to 18 months for a report to be prepared.

One of the companies that has supported the development of an air show for five years is Las Vegas-based AeroQuest USA, headed by Chief Executive Bill Clark.

"It's exciting news to us because we've been working on this for so many years," said Lisa Mayo-DeRiso of Mayo & Associates, a spokeswoman for AeroQuest.

Mayo-DeRiso said the AeroQuest team is expected to meet Monday to plan strategy to bid for the county's request for proposals.

"If we have an advantage, it's that this team has been together for so long planning for this," she said. "We already have a tremendous amount of support from industry professionals that are behind this. Las Vegas is a perfect location for a project like this."

The Paris Air Show is held every other year, including an event earlier this year that attracted 480,000 visitors over seven days. There were 206 official delegations from 88 countries in attendance; the show had 1,926 exhibitors, 238 aircraft on display and 4,000 accredited journalists.

Mayo-DeRiso said putting the pieces together for an aeronautics showcase at the Ivanpah airport would involve contacting aircraft manufacturers from around the world, including Boeing, Airbus Industrie, Lockheed Martin and Embraer, as well as the support companies that develop products for the manufacturing of aircraft - the makers of engines, high-tech navigational components and aircraft interior materials.

Clark already has enlisted the assistance of UNLV's business and engineering experts. Team members also are meeting with government leaders for help, working at the local, state and federal levels.

Congress already appropriated $1 million to study the feasibility of developing an international air trade show in the United States, a move made in 2004 in response to France's reluctance to assist the United States with its war effort in Iraq and the American response of pulling resources from the Paris Air Show.

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