EBACE Show Report

Last year they came because they had to. This year they came because they wanted to. Some 11,106 people turned up at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition on 4-6 May, up from 2009’s 10,917 attendance figure. Liz Moscrop reports from Geneva.

1st Jun 2010


EBACE highlights business aviation recovery

The atmosphere at this year’s EBACE was industrious and gone were 2009’s gaping holes on the exhibition floor, reminiscent of gaps in a prize-fighter’s teeth.

Exhibitors said the European business aviation sector is picking up more quickly than that of the US. Business aircraft sales in the international market have long since overtaken US domestic sales, and manufacturers are increasingly looking to emerging markets as the focus for their advertising dollars.

However, the current troubles afflicting European economies – such as financial turbulence in Greece and Spain, along with debt build-up in countries like Italy and Portugal – could prevent a strong upsurge in the immediate future.

At the same time, growth continues in the Middle East. Exhibitor Al Bateen Executive Airport, the Gulf’s first dedicated private aviation airport, said it has had a 30 percent increase in aircraft movements this year over last.

However, the real money lies with Asia and Africa today, as companies warm to the potential of business aviation. The show saw a debut announcement from one Chinese company and new long-range aircraft delivered into China.

Financiers are looking more positively at applications for aircraft loans now as some world economies show signs of recovery. Hamburg-based Lufthansa Technik was bullish, reporting “a successful 2009”. This year has already seen the company deliver a modified Airbus A319 to the German Ministry of Defence’s Special Air Mission Wing, with another due to follow.

Both Honeywell and Embraer forecasted slow growth from 2011 through 2019, with Europe expected to account for just over a quarter of new demand. According to Bombardier, however, the European business aviation fleet will grow to 4,500 aircraft by 2018, an increase of 2,800 jets in just eight years.


Static park features Citation CJ4, other debutantes

This year’s show included a number of first-time aircraft appearances in the static park. Among them were Cessna's Citation CJ4, the newly certified Eclipse 500, the Embraer Phenom 300 and the first European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certified Hawker 4000.

The CJ4 has now received US type certification, about three and a half years after its launch. The first production aircraft is due for delivery this summer and Cessna predicts it will deliver a further 14 over the year. The manufacturer says it has orders for 150 of the jets to date.

Priced at US$9 million, the aircraft is powered by two Williams International FJ44-4A engines and is fitted with a Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite. The jet has a maximum cruise speed of more than 450 knots (840kmh) and a range of nearly 2,000 nautical miles (3,700km) with two crew and five passengers. The aircraft can climb to 45,000ft (13,720m) in 28 minutes at maximum take-off weight.

The CJ4 also offers the Rockwell Collins Venue cabin management system, which includes the ability to play BluRay discs on high-definition monitors, as well as moving maps and XM satellite radio.

Valencia, Spain based air taxi operator JetReady displayed its Eclipse Aerospace Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ) in the static park. The freshly-EASA certified aircraft is expected to receive European and Spanish approval for commercial operations later this year.

The operator aims to take 23 Eclipse 500s over four years and will be based throughout Spain. Regulators required modifications to the aircraft before its approval, including installing a standby mechanical altimeter in case of a failure of the cockpit’s electronic displays.

Embraer’s Phenom 300 also made its show debut and earned its European approval during the show. The aircraft seats up to 10 people, has a top speed of 453 knots and can fly for 1,971 nautical miles at altitudes of up to 45,000ft.

Hawker Beechcraft gave pride of place to its flagship Hawker 4000 super-midsize business jet., which had just earned EASA certification.

Sean McGeough, the company’s president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “The market for the Hawker 4000 in Europe, Africa and the Middle East is an expansive and important one. EASA certification bolsters the Hawker 4000’s already enthusiastic reception in the region.”

Eight of the aircraft are now based in Europe, with more scheduled for delivery in the coming months.

Piaggo Aero

Piaggio Aero has intensified efforts to develop a new business jet, now that the company has obtained backing from shareholders Tata and Mubadala. Development of the P1XX jet is now well beyond the initial concept stage. According to Piaggio Aero president and CEO John Bingham the P1XX will be as unique as the company’s well-known P180 Avanti pusher turboprop. “If you thought the P180 was good wait till you see the next one,” he said. No launch date has yet been set and the company said that it is aiming the aircraft at a larger market than just P180 owners wishing to upgrade.

Vista signs partnership deal with flexjet

Two years after flamboyant VistaJet founder and chairman Thomas Flohr announced a US$1.2 billion order announcement for Bombardier aircraft at EBACE 2008 – acquiring the manufacturer’s Skyjet aviation services division en route – he was back at this year’s show, unveiling a partnership with the Canadian airframer’s fractional ownership arm, Flexjet.

To oversee the new deal and other VistaJet concerns, the charter company has appointed former NetJets Europe vice-chairman Robert Hersov to chair a special advisory board. Hersov founded Marquis Jets Europe, which he sold to NetJets in 2008. In his new role, he aims to put the company "in front of the right kinds of people", he told the UK’s Financial Times newspaper.

To date, VistaJet has focused primarily on Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Flohr described the Flexjet deal as “similar to the code-sharing deals made between commercial airlines.” Significantly, this gives VistaJet a foothold in the North American market. "With this agreement we offer a truly global service," said Flohr.

Earlier this year, VistaJet announced that it is taking on five aircraft in 2010 to expand its fleet to 28, with 20 more on order for delivery up to 2014, including Bombardier’s new Learjet 85 model.

The company said passenger numbers were up 25 percent last year compared with 2008, rising to 16,500. So far, 2010 looks set to generate similar growth. According to Flohr, VistaJet is taking customers from fractional programmes, which are proving unpopular while asset prices remain low.

VistaJet has also opened sales offices and bases in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong over the last few months.

Bombardier, Cessna, Embraer announce orders

[Pic: CompluxGlobal.jpg. Caption: Comlux says its Global Express XRS aircraft are the most popular among its customers. (Credit: Comlux)]

Jordan's Arab Wings announced an order at EBACE for one Embraer Legacy 650 jet on behalf of an undisclosed Jordanian client. Arab Wings will manage and operate the aircraft, which is scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2010.

"The Legacy 650 will establish a new concept for business travel, offering an extended range of 3,900nm (7,200km) with the same superior comfort of the Legacy 600, which is a very successful aircraft in the region," said Luís Carlos Affonso, Embraer’s executive vice-president for executive jets. Arab Wings will also add a Phenom 100 very-light jet to its fleet later this year.

Canada’s Bombardier also revealed several orders. Fly Comlux, the VIP Charter division of Comlux The Aviation Group, placed an order for a Bombardier Global Express XRS jet featuring the manufacturer’s new Global Vision flight deck.

The operator’s growing fleet of large-cabin aircraft includes 11 Challenger and Global jets. Stephen Laven, chief executive of Fly Comlux, said: “Among all our jets, the Global Express XRS aircraft is the leader in terms of customer satisfaction, so expanding our Global aircraft fleet is a natural choice. From the Challenger 605 jet to the Global Express XRS jet, these aircraft provide a luxurious yet highly productive environment for doing business in transit between meetings, or relaxing and enjoying the ride.”

Comlux’s fleet features Challenger 605, Challenger 850, Global 5000 and Global Express XRS aircraft, complementing the company’s larger Airbus Corporate Jets.

At the smaller end of the scale, Turkish Airlines Flight Training Academy ordered two Cessna Citation Mustang jets. The new aircraft were scheduled for delivery in May and will be based at Istanbul Ataturk airport, where they will be used as trainers.


Embraer makes inroads into UK

Embraer announced that it has signed up UK-based Inflite Engineering Services as an authorized service centre for its flagship Lineage 1000 ultra-long range business jet.

Inflite has been a Legacy 600 service centre since 2004 and more recently added the Phenom 100 to its books. The company is building a new 50,000-sq-ft hangar at its Stansted base, capable of performing three Lineage 1000 heavy maintenance checks simultaneously.

A local Embraer service centre will be useful for one British start-up. FlairJet is blazing the trail in Europe for the Brazilian OEM’s smallest business jets. In July the Oxford Airport-based charter company will add the region's first Phenom 300 light jet to its fleet of three Phenom 100 very light jets (VLJs), the latest of which arrived in May.

The company will also take delivery of another Phenom 100 and one more Phenom 300 in the next few months, said Chief Executive David Fletcher.

So far, FlairJet has been operating all its aircraft under management, however, the company plans to acquire its own Phenom 100 in 2012. Two of its Phenom 100s are owned by property entrepreneurs the Reuben Brothers, who also own London Oxford Airport.

FlairJet started operating in January and is averaging 2.4 passengers per flight. It is set to exceed its target of 400 flight hours this year.

Widebodies drive completions services forward

Jet Aviation Basel has signed a further five-year agreement with Airbus to provide completions services, interior design, engineering, manufacturing, installation and certification for the Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ) aircraft family.

The new agreement sets the foundation for the future and will result in “increased employment and jobs,” said Jet Aviation President Peter Edwards.

Arnaud Martin, Airbus vice-president of corporate jet and VIP programmes said that the agreement “will bring more business to Switzerland, benefiting the economy and helping to safeguard jobs.” To date, Jet Aviation has completed 10 projects for Airbus, which is expected to deliver another 16 aircraft this year, one of which – a privately owned A340-600 – will go to Jet Aviation’s Basel centre.

Meanwhile, Gore Design Completions delivered a finished A340-500 to an African head-of-state this January and has three more A340s signed, one of which has already arrived at Gore’s facility in San Antonio, Texas. Another was due to arrive in May and the third this month. A BBJ3 and Boeing 767 are also due to arrive this month and a B-777 in September. Gore recently expanded its hangar another 200 feet and now has approximately 165,000 square feet of hangar, shops and office space.

Just before EBACE, Comlux Aviation announced that it had spent US$3.4 million to buy and overhaul the Indianapolis Jet Centre. The operation will focus on Bombardier business jet maintenance, outfitting and refurbishment; and outfitting and refurbishing larger executive aircraft such as the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and ACJ. Bombardier also announced that Comlux Aviation Services had become an authorized service facility (ASF) for its business jets, adding to its 40 other ASFs in 21 countries.

Associated Air Centre (AAC) also announced that its maintenance and repair division has added more services to support BBJ customers, including mandatory fuel-tank modifications and cabin-altitude reductions. AAC offer a modification reducing the BBJ’s 8,000ft cabin altitude to 6,500ft, improving passenger comfort and reducing crew fatigue.

Boeing engineered and recently received FAA certification for this cabin altitude modification and AAC has completed the adaptations on four BBJs to date with another one scheduled in the near term.


Sabena Technics to test ‘Simplexity’ on A320

Paris-based maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company Sabena Technics announced that it is collaborating with French industrial designer Ora-Ïto to create an innovative interior design concept for trials on an Airbus A320.

Although the partners remained tight-lipped about exact details, they said that the design is based on a principle they call ‘Simplexity’, or the artistic ability to give an object with complex functions a simple appearance. The cabin will comprise one fluid design, giving a complete feeling of openness across the aircraft and throughout its lounge, meeting and reception areas. This new aircraft interior will be unveiled next autumn.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa Technik (LHT) is offering a VIP cabin quick-change kit for Airbus and Boeing narrowbody aircraft. This new, on-demand configuration allows customers to switch seamlessly between a VIP aircraft and a commercial aircraft cabin overnight. This allows customers to operate the aircraft in both passenger and VIP roles.

LHT said that any Part 145 organization can switch the aircraft itself by using the existing seat tracks. Lufthansa Technik will design and implement a one-time modification of the aircraft and will provide the customer with an individual conversion kit and a manual.

There is a variety of cabin layouts, seating options and colours. The kit also integrates an optional in-flight entertainment system. Additionally, customers can install high/low folding tables and up to three spacious stowage cabinets. A class divider partition, equipped with another folding table and a foldable door separates the VIP area from the commercial area.


First A350 Prestige to be delivered in 2014

Airbus announced at the show that it would deliver the first VIP-configured A350 Prestige in 2014.

The manufacturer said that it has been a tough year for orders, but that emerging markets are paving the way to recovery. Francois Chazelle, vice-president executive and private aviation Middle East, said the airframer expects to book orders in the coming weeks with customers in the Middle East, China and Eastern Europe.

Airbus expects to deliver 16 corporate jets in 2010, two more than last year. These will include two A340-500s. According to Chazelle, the upturn has been led by emerging markets in China and the Middle East, in line with positive trends in the global economy.

There were two A319 Airbus Corporate Jets on static display at this year’s EBACE, including one belonging to Acropolis Aviation, a British VIP charter company. The aircraft was completed at the Airbus Corporate Jet Centre in Toulouse and featured an interior created by French designer Alberto Pinto.

Acropolis will operate its first ACJ on long-range missions in a standard configuration with three auxiliary fuel tanks. An option for two additional tanks would provide 5,000 nautical miles (9,250km) of range, requiring a two-day modification.

Asian Aviation at a glance