The Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) show, in Dubai from 7-9 December provided an up-beat close to the year for the business aviation sector. Although the show was no order bonanza, optimism was evident, especially in the large-cabin segment, as Andrzej Jeziorski reports.
1st Feb 2011
For Bombardier, the MEBA show opened just days after the company had announced a 15 percent drop in group profit for the third quarter of 2010, with a 14 percent decline in Aerospace revenue to US$1.8 billion.
Still, new orders for the quarter increased to 23 aircraft from seven in the year-earlier period and the company declared that the “fundamentals are strong” in both the business and commercial aerospace sectors.
In the run-up to the opening of the show, Bombardier Aerospace announced the opening of a Regional Support Office (RSO) in Dubai, aimed at improving service levels for the growing number of Learjet, Challenger and Global customers in the Middle East and Africa region. The office is the sixth RSO the company has opened outside of North America in the past three years, as international orders account for a larger proportion of sales and the company tries to bring technical, operations support and account management functions closer to its customers.
The RSO is located at Dubai International Airport, alongside the manufacturer’s existing parts depot, operated in conjunction with ExecuJet Aviation, Bombardier’s Authorized Service Facility in the region.
“It is crucial that our growing customer base in this key part of the world has ready access to a fully integrated regional support system,” says Andy Nureddin, vice-president of customer services and support for Bombardier Business Aircraft. “This new RSO is part of our aggressive plan to move closer to our customers, improve response times and build stronger relationships around the globe.”
The new office bolsters Bombardier’s support in the Middle East and Africa in light of existing and anticipated regional growth. Bombardier’s Learjet, Challenger and Global aircraft models account for more than 23 percent of deliveries in the past five years.
The Canadian manufacturer also has RSOs in Mumbai, India; Tokyo, Japan; Sydney, Australia; Shanghai, China; and Munich, Germany.
During the course of the show, Bombardier won orders for nine aircraft from two customers. VIP charter operator Comlux, which already operates 12 Bombardier Challenger and Global jets, placed a firm order for two, ultra-long range Global 7000 models.
The manufacturer also announced on 8 December that it received firm orders for five mid-size Learjet 85s and two large-cabin Challenger 605 jets, from multiple companies of the same group, for principal operation in Germany by Munich-based Jet Air Flug. The order has a combined value of about US$155 million, based on 2010 list prices for typically equipped aircraft.
Embraer came to the MEBA show to display its ultra-large Lineage 1000 executive jet at the static display area, together with the light Phenom 300 and the newly certificated large Legacy 650 executive jets.
The large-cabin Legacy 650 was on static display for first time at the MEBA show. Based on the successful Legacy 600 platform, the Legacy 650, with its 3,900 nautical mile range, recently demonstrated its long-range capabilities with a nonstop flight from Dubai to London, UK, with ten occupants on board.
Embraer says the increase in range was accomplished through extensive airframe modifications, such as reinforced wings and landing gear, larger fuel capacity and new, highly efficient and more powerful Rolls-Royce AE 3007A2 engines. The aircraft also features Honeywell’s new Primus Elite avionics suite, which will also be installed in future Legacy 600s.
Due to the Legacy’s hot-and-high performance, which allows operations at temperatures of up to 50 degrees centigrade, both models have found success in the Middle East, where over 20 are in operation today.
EXECUJET Middle East, a leading global business aviation organisation, announced a new partnership with Qatar’s Al Faisal Holding, one of the leading diversified companies in Qatar, to form a new business aviation company in Doha to be called ExecuJet Qatar. The new company has been founded to secure an Air Operating Certificate (AOC) and provide aircraft management and charter solutions to clients in Qatar. The application process for the AOC is now underway and expected to be in place early in 2011. ExecuJet Qatar will be operated by ExecuJet Middle East and is expected to create a number of new jobs in support of the AOC application. Staff numbers will grow as the company’s managed aircraft fleet expands. The company is expected to have its facilities at Doha International Airport. “ExecuJet’s current business in the region has been growing steadily for many years,” says ExecuJet Middle East Managing Director Mike Berry. “What we have seen is further potential [in] the region and [we] have always expressed our plans to expand our geographic footprint further within the Middle East.”
Rizon Jet of Doha, Qatar, is to become a new operator of an Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ), which it will manage on behalf of a new Gulf customer, which placed its order earlier this year.
The latest order for the aircraft, derived from Airbus’s A320 single-aisle jetliner family, builds on the strong presence that Airbus corporate jets already have in the region, one of the world’s largest markets for business jets. As part of the management contract, Rizon Jet will offer its client consulting services in the design and completion process.
Delivery of the ‘green’ ACJ is planned for next year, with the completed aircraft scheduled to be handed over to the customer in 2012. The interior will reflect the latest standards of luxury in business aviation.
“Our customer wants a comfortable and spacious environment for his family and friends during his travels,” says Rizon Jet CEO Patrick Enz. “The new Airbus ACJ ticks all the boxes for his requirements. Moving into the management and operation of an Airbus Corporate Jetliner was both a natural and desirable step for us
In addition to comfort and space, Airbus Corporate Jet customers benefit from many advantages flowing from being part of the European manufacturer’s airliner family – such as better value-retention, satellite phone technology, modern navigation aids such as satellite-based GPS, and worldwide support that includes features tailored to corporate jets.
Only Airbus offers such a complete range of modern corporate jets, with seating for 19 to more than 90 passengers, only Airbus delivers so much freedom of enjoyment on board, and only Airbus packs so many innovations into every aircraft it delivers.
Airbus has sold more than 170 corporate jets to date, comprising over 110 A318 Elites, Airbus ACJs and A320 Prestiges, alongside more than 60 widebody models for VIP and government use. The manufacturer says its corporate jets are the only ones flying on every continent – including Antarctica.
Airbus’s first VIP variant of the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest jetliner – has been ordered by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al Waleed and is to come off the production line next year.
Closely following the company’s October announcement of the Hawker 400XPR improvement package for Hawker 400XP/Beechjet 400A aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft Services (HBS) announced at MEBA that it has acquired the first test aircraft and initiated design engineering work on the US$2.24 million upgrade.
“Based on strong customer interest, we are speeding up the pace of the 400XPR development,” says Christi Tannahill, the company’s vice-president for global customer support. “Our design and engineering team is already modelling and evaluating winglet shapes and other aerodynamic improvements, along with preliminary powerplant considerations.”
She adds: “The market is ready for a factory-designed and supported performance enhancement of this proven light jet.”
The Hawker 400XPR, is expected to receive certification in 2012 and offers greatly improved range and airfield performance, while reducing noise footprint and emissions by replacing the existing Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 engines with new, more fuel-efficient Williams International FJ44-4A-32 turbofans.
The upgrade also features the addition of Hawker composite winglets and an optional modernised flight deck with Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics.
JET AVIATION has won the first completions contract for a VVIP version of a Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. The company will take delivery of the next-generation version of Boeing’s largest commercial airliner at its base in Basel, Switzerland, in early 2012. The company will install the aircraft’s interior over a period of 24 months, for an unidentified Middle Eastern customer. The cabin is to be designed by Jet Aviation’s in-house studio. "Jet Aviation Basel's selection as the first-ever completions centre to be contracted to complete the cabin interior of a VVIP B747-8 aircraft is a validation of the investments we have made in technology and training to build the in-depth know-how of the Boeing 747-8 aircraft," says Peter Edwards, president of the Jet Aviation group. The aircraft will be the first widebody where CATIA and Smarteam 3-D design software will be used for the engineering, production and data management of the entire completion process. The software was introduced at Jet Aviation Basel earlier this year. The Basel completions centre will also build a full-size mock-up of the aircraft so the client can experience a 1:1-scale view of the cabin interior for the final decision making process.
TAG AVIATION Asia has teamed up with China First Mandarin Group to capitalise on China’s growing business aviation market. The companies will offer a joint management, charter and maintenance operation. Final approval of the alliance will require the government go-ahead, which TAG says is expected in early 2011. Once they receive clearance for the venture, the companies will adopt a shred brand and create a joint management team.
The Middle East market for business jets is beginning to show signs of recovery as confidence starts to return, Dassault says.
The manufacturer has a growing fleet of Falcon business jets in the region, which it plans to increase by 30 percent over the next three years, thanks to a solid aircraft order book from buyers in the region.
On top of rising demand for new aircraft, the level of private aviation activity is picking up, as indicated by the increasing number of hours being flown by business jet operators in the region. With the private-aviation client base now evolving beyond the traditional, small group of elite clients to include corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and other business users, supported by solid aviation infrastructure, Dassault now considers the regional market for private aviation to be very ‘mature’.
Dassault Falcon sold 14 aircraft in the Middle East in the last two years and has a backlog of 15 more to be delivered to regional buyers by 2013. Dassault’s current regional fleet size numbers about 60 business jets and this is expected to grow by a third over the next three years.
The large-cabin Falcon 7X accounts for about 40 percent of the company’s new business jet sales and the company will deliver the tenth example of this model to the Middle East before the end of 2010.
Dassault has also expanded its presence and infrastructure with a new Regional Sales Office and recently appointed a new, Dubai-based regional sales director, as well as a second Authorized Service Centre and a new customer service manager in Saudi Arabia.
“The Middle East business environment still remains challenging but confidence levels appear to be rising,” said John Rosanvallon, president and chief executive officer of Dassault Falcon. “Dassault has seen much greater demand over the last two quarters of the current financial year, with larger cabin jet sales and prices holding up better than smaller jets.”
Even if current positive signs turn out not herald “a true rebound”, Rosanvallon says, business has “certainly resumed”. While western economies struggle to recover, other regions are active, including India, South America, Asia – and the Middle East, where Dassault has an advantage because of its military heritage and established reputation, through the Dassault Mirage fighter jets that are operated in some countries of the region.
“Investment made in private aviation infrastructure in the boom years is supporting the development of business aviation in the region,” added Rosanvallon. “The service centres and FBOs (fixed-base operators) are recognized as being amongst the best in the world and are helping business aviation to develop rapidly and attract a much broader clientele here.”
The Dassault chief said this “is the result of the substantial investments that have been made over the last few years and which are now starting to pay off. Given this situation, we are very optimistic about the future, which is one of the reasons we are developing our own presence and adding new resources. CAE SimuFlite, our training provider partner, will, for example, open a brand new Falcon training centre in Dubai in the second quarter of 2011."
Private jet service provider Air Partner added a third service area to its JetCard product late in 2010 with the introduction of its jet card scheme for travel within the Middle East.
The launch of the new 25-hour Air Partner Middle East JetCard followed the successful introduction in 2009 of the company’s European and Continental US service area cards to Gulf-originating travellers flying within these continents.
“Demand from clients worldwide, and the significant improvement in the quality and quantity of private aircraft available for charter in the Middle East over the last 12 months, prompted us to expand our JetCard offering” says Kevin Ducksbury, Air Partner’s Dubai-based Director of Middle East and Asia.
The Middle East JetCard is aimed at local business and leisure travellers wishing to fly within their home region and at overseas visitors to the Middle East – including European and USA JetCard holders – who need or want to undertake multi-centre trips.