EBACE 2007 Preview

 - April 30, 2007, 6:10 AM

The seventh annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) seems certain to be the largest event yet, with more than 10,000 visitors expected at Geneva’s Palais des Expositions convention center to view more than 300 exhibits and 50 aircraft. But the show (May 22 to 24) will also be an important forum for some big issues now facing the business aviation community in Europe.

The rapid growth of EBACE has prompted organizers to move the main indoor exhibits from Palexpo’s Hall 7 to the more spacious Hall 6. This year, Hall 7 will house company chalets, industry meetings and press conferences, while continuing to provide direct access to the incomparably convenient static display at the adjoining Geneva Airport. At press time there was still some limited indoor exhibit space and a few slots on the static display available, but the show was fast approaching sell-out.

EBACE is organized jointly by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and NBAA. More information about the event is available at www.ebace.aero. All the established business aircraft manufacturers now exhibit at EBACE without fail, and so do many of the new contenders. Increasingly, companies use the European show as a stage from which to make important new product and service announcements–something that used to be the sole preserve of the annual NBAA show in the U.S.

Dassault Aviation seems certain to have a high profile at EBACE 2007, not least because its new Falcon 7X trijet was set to complete certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency less than one month before the show. A production-standard 7X is likely to make an appearance at EBACE. What remains to be seen is whether the French airframer will make any further public comments about the new super-midsize jet that it has said it intends to launch next year.

Embraer is also expected to have another big show, with an exhibit that will likely demonstrate the scope of a burgeoning product line that now spans the Phenom 100 very light jet to the Lineage 1000 large-cabin aircraft. The Brazilian company is expected at some point to reveal details about a new jet to fill a gap between the Phenom 300 and Legacy 600. It seems increasingly likely that this will make news this month at EBACE, the venue Embraer chose to unveil the Lineage 1000 last year; if not there, perhaps at the Paris Air Show next month.

Eclipse Aviation is booked to bring an aircraft to Geneva, which would be the long-awaited European debut of its Eclipse 500 VLJ. However, it is hard to say whether the U.S. company’s recent program difficulties and changes will scupper plans to bring the aircraft to Europe for what would be a second successive EBACE.

For the company formerly known as Raytheon Aircraft, EBACE 2007 will make the first full public appearance of Hawker Beechcraft, following the late-March completion of the $3.3 billion buyout by GS Capital Partners and Onex Partners.

Direct rivals Gulfstream, Bombardier and Cessna are all expected to have larger-than-ever presences in Geneva, along with Boeing Business Jets, Airbus and smaller aircraft makers EADS Socata, Pilatus, Piaggio, Sino Swearingen and Cirrus. Piper Aircraft was not on the EBACE exhibitor list as of the middle of last month, despite the fact that it has a new very light jet to offer the European market, and neither was another new VLJ contender, Honda.

Big Issues Dominate Busy Agenda

“I don’t think I have ever known such a busy period for the association,” reflected

EBAA chief executive Brian Humphries. “We have key issues on five fronts and they are all happening at the same time and need attention: the environment, security, Eurocontrol’s Single European Sky implementation, EASA and access to airports. We’ve never been more busy.”

These hot issues will all feature prominently in the three-day EBACE conference program. Other issues to be tackled include a candid self-examination of business aviation’s safety record, the impact that VLJs might have in Europe and a debate about the apparent trend for authorities to rush to press criminal charges in the wake of air accidents (especially topical in the light of the legal fallout from last year’s collision between an Embraer Legacy and a Brazilian 737 over the Amazon jungle). The program also features a comprehensive array of manufacturer maintenance and operations briefings.

EBACE organizers have streamlined the format for the show’s opening general session in response to exhibitor comments that the show has had a rather slow start in the past. This session will now be one hour long, with brief state-of-the-union presentations by Humphries and NBAA president Ed Bolen, followed by a keynote address by Bertrand Piccard, famous for completing the first nonstop circumnavigation of the globe in a balloon (the Breitling Orbiter 3). Piccard will speak on the subject of “how business aviation fuels the European entrepreneurial spirit.” Another special guest at this first EBACE session is Michel Wachenheim, president of the European Civil Aviation Conference.

Membership of EBAA, which is this year marking its 30th anniversary, has continued to grow and has now topped 270 companies–an almost 25-percent gain on last year’s total of 220 members. The Brussels-based group now represents a European business aviation fleet that numbers some 2,850 aircraft, more than 800 of which have arrived in the continent since the EBACE show started in 2001.

Recently, Humphries and the rest of the EBAA board decided to recruit a new full-time chief executive for the group. Humphries, formerly chairman of the association, took the job on a part-time basis in 2004 when he retired as managing director of oil company flight department Shell Aviation. In practice he has been working full-time–albeit partly from his home in the UK–and now feels that EBAA needs a chief executive permanently based at head office. He will continue in a part-time capacity as president of EBAA and wants to see a new chief executive in place by this summer.

Safety Standdown Comes to Europe

Bombardier is to hold its first Safety Standdown event in Europe at the end of the EBACE 2007 show. The gathering will consist of a full day of seminars at the Palexpo convention center on May 25, with a reception to be held on the evening of May 24 at the adjoining Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Safety Standdown is usually held in Wichita and promotes knowledge-based training and personal discipline for flight crew. The seminar, which the Canadian airframer offers free of charge, is open to all pilots regardless of the type of aircraft they operate. Among the safety experts set to participate in the Geneva seminar are Dr. Jerome Berlin, Capt. Gene Cernan, Dr. Tony Kern and Dr. Mark Rosekind.

As of press time, more than 80 people had registered for the Safety Standdown in Geneva and places were still available. More information can be found at www.safetystanddown.com.