Bizav's best years beckon as EBACE show turns 10

 - May 3, 2010, 1:06 PM

The 10th annual EBACE show opens as a sell-out this morning. The scale of the event should serve as encouragement to Europe’s business aviation community that it is at last turning the corner on a tumultuous period of downturn and uncertainty.
Brian Humphries, president and CEO of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), reported that the EBACE halls are packed with 436 companies–six-percent up from 411 last year. He added that 65 aircraft were booked into the static park, which is also up on 2009, while attendee numbers were heading for just over 9,500, again 6-percent up on the last show.

Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the U.S. NBAA, said, “By any standards EBACE has been an enormous success, far more than just products and marketing.”

Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), then reflected on how the threat to this year’s EBACE posed by the recent volcanic ash crisis had passed to everyone’s enormous relief, illustrating the show’s importance in educating and communicating with politicians. He stated that moving ahead with air traffic management modernization was the number one theme for the industry and that it was imperative that momentum is maintained with SESAR and NextGen (the European and U.S. future ATM systems respectively). He added that products that are “universally flyable around the world” were needed with EASA and the U.S. FAA leading the way to establish standards in something that would form a key part of achieving carbon-neutral industry growth.

Recovery in Sight?

After the main speeches Jean Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet, told AIN that the recovery did not seem to be coming as soon as hoped. “We think 2010 will be a pretty flat year and it will be the second half of 2011 before we see real improvement.” He added that “[used aircraft] prices have been down by 30 to 50 percent, where resale values have previously been one of the strong selling points [of business aircraft].” For example, a Falcon 900 may only reach $20 million now whereas before it was worth $35 million, so upgrading to a new aircraft (a $45 to $50 million Falcon 7X) would mean finding $25 to $30 million rather than $10 to $15 million. “That’s huge,” he conceded.

Rudolfo Baviera, EBAA chairman and CEO of Italy’s Eurofly Service, explained how the value of business aviation can be illustrated by example, such as being able to fly from Rome to Milan and arriving before the airline would even have left Rome. Humphries said that most business aviation flights in Europe were not even on such city pairs, with 70 percent not having any airlines operating them at all. That’s 90,000 city pairs, he added.

Humphries also argued that the supposed champagne-lifestyle associated with business aviation is not the reality. In his view, it is rarely like that and was all about saving time and being able to work effectively.

Realizing that business aviation was more about value per passenger rather than emissions per passenger was something which had been better received in Europe, said Humphries, who added a further statistic: 70 percent of business aviation operators in Europe have only one aircraft, and are using them predominantly as business tools.