New CEPA show in Prague will boost bizav out east

 - May 4, 2010, 4:35 AM

The new Central Europe Private Aviation (CEPA) industry association has launched plans for a business aviation trade show focused on Central and Eastern Europe. The first CEPA EXPO is to be held in the Czech Republic at Prague’s Vodochody Airport Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 2011.

According to CEPA, the new show will draw at least 120 exhibitors and will generate revenues of almost $1.4 million. The first two days of the event will be for trade visitors only, followed by a public day on Saturday, October 1. CEPA EXPO will be held less than two weeks ahead of next year’s NBAA Convention, which is to be staged in Las Vegas from October 10 to 12.

“This is a huge and exciting ‘first’ for the region’s private aviation industry,” said Dagmar Grossmann, chairman and founder of CEPA. “The timing is absolutely perfect; business aviation here is booming and CEPA is ready to help its members reach the next level of growth.” Grossmann is also CEO of Prague- based executive charter operator Grossmann Jet Services.

The launch announcement for CEPA EXPO was made in Prague on April 22 during the opening day of CEPA’s inaugural conference. That meeting was attended by about 200 people and went ahead despite the threat of disruption from flight cancellations caused by the volcanic ash cloud in European airspace last month.
Grossmann has formed CEPA to address what she sees as particular challenges facing the business aviation community in Central and Eastern Europe. “There is this invisible border between the private aviation industries in Western and Eastern Europe,” she said. “For example, if a Bulgarian company purchases jets with financing from a German bank and insurance from a French insurance company, it might be deterred by several barriers. CEPA is going to make those connections happen.”

CEPA was formed late last year and already has some 70 members. They are drawn mainly from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia. The association wants to extend its presence further east and north in the Baltic states and countries such as Hungary and Ukraine.

Grossmann told AIN that in addition to lobbying governments in the region on issues frustrating business aviation, such as new security requirements, the new trade group also wants to boost service standards in the region. She indicated that some aircraft owners need to be more aware of the responsibilities that come with having operational control. In particular, the role of the accountable manager in an operation needs to be taken more seriously.

“There is really big potential for more aircraft deals and new AOCs [operators] to be set up in this part of Europe,” she said. “But most Eastern [European] banks will not finance aircraft because they think the risks are too big and they are worried about trust and transparency.” CEPA believes it can help break down these obstacles to growth by providing specialist advisors from its membership.

Grossmann Jet Services operates three aircraft–a Hawker Beechcraft 900XP and a Cessna Citation Mustang, both under management contracts, and an Embraer Legacy, which it leases. The company has 27 employees.

Recent growth in both personal and corporate wealth in former Soviet Bloc states has stimulated a surge in demand for charter flights. Grossmann said that her company has drawn newcomers into this mode of transportation by pioneering the use of the Mustang light jet.

In Eastern and Central Europe, traditional travel agents still play a big role in booking charter flights. Grossmann said that her team has worked hard to develop good working relationships with these agents by treating them as peers rather than unwelcome middlemen.