After low-cost carriers, business aviation now ranks number two in Eurocontrol’s latest traffic statistics. “Not long ago, business aviation was not even on the radar screen of the agency and other decision makers,” European Business Aviation Association chief executive Eric Mandemaker told attendees at the general and business aviation annual forum held at the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation in Brussels recently. “But this has changed since this fast-growing sector–around a 10-percent increase per annum–represents nearly 8 percent of all IFR traffic in Europe and operates a fleet of 3,000 turbine-powered aircraft. The introduction of very light jets will further contribute to these numbers.”
In 2006, Eurocontrol released a study entitled, “Getting to the Point: Business Aviation in Europe.” At the time, the report concluded that the business aviation segment was growing faster than the overall air traffic market. It also forecast that the European fleet of business aircraft would rise by around 4 percent annually.
Two years later, Eurocontrol’s head of forecast unit, Dr. David Marsh, confirmed this trend with figures for 2007. According to the agency’s updated 2008 report, which is scheduled to be released here at EBACE, business aviation traffic in Europe expanded by as much as 10 percent last year, compared with an average growth rate of 5.3 percent across all sectors of the industry. The initial report has been updated with data valid through the end of 2007 and some of the data is available online at www.eurocontrol.int.
Preliminary data for 2007 show that amid more than 750,000 business aviation flights, growth was particularly high among business jets, but there was also some increase in turboprop traffic despite the overall shift to jets. Real peaks in traffic were noted in June and September with a flat summer period (although the dip was lower than in previous years) and a pause during the winter season.
In 2007, the busiest business aviation routes were about the same as two years previously, with those between London, Rome and the French Riviera claiming most of the traffic. However, the report noted a slight move toward the east, with Munich and Vienna as major destinations. Moscow and Shannon also figure strongly in the traffic figures.
According to Marsh, there was little growth in traffic at smaller airports compared with medium-size airports handling 100 to 500 movements per day. Paris Le Bourget Airport remains the number-one destination in Europe, while the UK and Switzerland have increased their market share in business aviation takeoff and landings.
When overflights are included, 10 states showed more than 100 business aircraft movements per day in 2007. Austria, for example, experiences a significant number of overflights originating or terminating in Eastern Europe and Russia but fewer takeoffs and landings than Spain.
The report again confirmed that business aircraft rarely fly the same route twice, which reflects their flexibility compared to the airlines’ scheduled network. Indeed, they often operate on routes that would not be viable for a commercial operation.
It also noted that few business aircraft operators in Europe have more than one percent of the total market. Eurocontrol estimates that there are roughly 800
such operators in Europe, many of them are small- or medium-size companies. Operators from outside Europe represent about 10 percent of the flights.
Eurocontrol has dedicated an “Aircraft Operators’ Corner” under the “Stakeholders” section of its Web site (www.eurocontrol.int), where operators can find information about flight planning and route charges issues, among other details.
Visitors to the Web site also can access a new statistics portal, which contains airport traffic and rankings by segment, traffic flows, market segment growth and so on. Users register at the site via OneSky Online and are then e-mailed a user ID.
The statistics show that in 2007, there was a slight increase in the use of higher flight levels, with more flights moving up to FL380. However, since 70 percent of the business aircraft flights fly sectors of 300 miles or less, they usually do not travel at these altitudes. This is one of the reasons en route delays for business aircraft are marginally higher than the average. However, Marsh said, “Business aviation is relatively successful at avoiding delays.”
The number of very light jets (VLJs) is set to soar in Europe, with up to 100 aircraft coming into service each year and 700 expected to be in operation on this side of the Atlantic by 2015. Eurocontrol’s studies show that there are more than 470 VLJs currently on order for operation in Europe (see table). Of these, at least 230 are due for delivery by the end of 2010.
The majority of VLJs are expected to be used for air-taxi work. Typically, this would result in each aircraft making an average of two to three flights a day, adding 200 to 300 extra flights in the region per day.
“The growth in VLJs adds a significant extra dimension to the complexity of air traffic in Europe,” said Alex Hendriks, Eurocontrol’s deputy director of ATM strategies. “VLJs have very different speeds and cruising levels from current commercial jet aircraft, so we need to conduct an impact assessment to see how they will affect the network as a whole.”