Ebace Report: Show’s sixth edition doesn’t disappoint

 - September 15, 2006, 9:50 AM

It is testament to both the rising stature of the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) and the audacious ambition of Embraer that the Brazilian airframer chose the Geneva show as the venue for its surprise launch of the new Lineage 1000 very large-cabin business jet. There was a time when the annual U.S. NBAA show was the only credible venue for new aircraft launches, but EBACE–representing as it does a widening and growing market spanning Europe and the Middle East–is fast moving center stage.

The fact is that Embraer might very well need more than one platform from which to trumpet its plans to take on the established hierarchy of business aircraft manufacturers. Launching the Lineage 1000 at EBACE, Embraer senior vice president for executive jets Luis Carlos Affonso made it clear that the company intends to build a large line of products and that it will fill gaps between the existing Phenom, Legacy and Lineage models. The 2006 NBAA show in Orlando, Fla., may well be the venue for these announcements.

The Lineage 1000 will be a derivative of the Embraer 190 regional airliner. The $40.95 million aircraft is due to enter service in mid-2008.

Embraer also announced that it has sold two more Legacy 600s to customers in the Middle East, bringing the total number of the type in this region to seven. Beirut-based banker Adnan Kassar has bought one of the aircraft, and Celtel International, a subsidiary of Kuwait-based phone company MTC, has ordered the other.

The manufacturer also unveiled a new Executive Care program to support its fast-growing line of business aircraft. This is a power-by-the-hour package derived from the existing Total Legacy Care program. It will cover costs related to scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, OEM parts replacement and maintenance tracking and control.

Europe Prepares for VLJ Age
Predictably, the subject of very light jets (VLJs) was on the tip of most EBACE showgoers’ tongues as Europeans sought to come to terms with how these exciting new-generation business aircraft might change their lives. However, not one real example of the new breed actually made the trip to Geneva.

The Eclipse 500 had been expected to make its European debut, but it was detained in the U.S. as its certification process comes to a head. The Cessna Citation Mustang was also absent, but viewers were able to visit full-scale mock-ups of Embraer’s Phenom 100 and 300 jets and of the Advanced Technology Group Javelin.

As evidence of the potential that VLJs could have in Europe, Zurich-based charter operator JetBird placed a firm order for 50 Embraer Phenom 100s and took options on 50 more. Deliveries are set to start in April 2009 at a rate of about 20 aircraft every five years, and the operator is free to trade out any number of the Phenom 100s for the larger 300s.

JetBird is planning to offer fixed flight hour charter rates (with no direct charge for positioning) in an operation that will have its first hub in either Zurich or Geneva. Later it intends to establish other mini-hubs around Europe, each with up to 25 aircraft.

According to JetBird chairman Domhnal Slattery, the company’s business plan hinges on the Phenom jets’ low acquisition and operating costs, which should allow it to charge less than half the rates of existing on-demand charter operators. The company will encourage Web-site bookings by offering discounts and will also offer a block charter jet card.

Further tangible evidence of Europe’s ambitions to enter the VLJ age came from UK-based JetSet Air. In November last year, the firm placed orders for up to 50 Eclipse 500s and at the EBACE show it forged a partnership with German charter firm Cirrus Aviation, which will operate the aircraft on its behalf.

JetSet managing director David Bond also announced that he has begun negotiations with Embraer to buy up to 10 Phenom 100s for delivery by 2009. He is due to start receiving the Eclipse 500s next spring.

The JetSet business plan is to offer low-cost access to corporate aviation by operating “scheduled but flexible” VLJ services between leading European cities at the equivalent of airline business-class fares. It will also connect popular Mediterranean and Alpine resorts in a network of services due to start next summer. Bookings will be made exclusively via the Internet and discounts will be offered for block-hour purchases.

One significant debutante in the European marketplace was the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 high-performance light jet. The manufacturer was emphasizing the aircraft’s quasi-transatlantic qualities; flying west out of Paris, the SJ30-2 can reach most of North America, after a fuel stop in Newfoundland.

Adam Aircraft president Joe Walker confirmed that the company is about to appoint a factory-direct sales representative to promote European sales of its A700 AdamJet and A500 piston twin. The company also reported that it has developed a maintenance program for both types, offering fixed flight hour rates for the first three years of operation. European certification of the A700 is not expected to be complete until December of next year.

Spectrum Aeronautical said that it will build a European support network for the Spectrum 33 jet around the new Spectrum Aviation Europe subsidiary that it established last year. According to Stefano Sturlese, CEO of the Luxembourg-based operation, the U.S. manufacturer will create a European delivery center so local customers can accept their aircraft without having to travel to its Utah headquarters.

Charter in the Spotlight
Jet Aviation unveiled its plans for the new Skylliance network of executive charter operators. The program will promote the services of carefully audited operators–initially in Europe, but eventually in North America as well. The first operator to sign a membership agreement is Executive Airlines of Spain, and Jet Aviation has signed memoranda of understanding with several other undisclosed firms.

The Swiss-based business aviation services group expects Skylliance to have between 20 and 25 aircraft once these MOUs are firmed into membership agreements. It wants the network fleet to number 50 aircraft by the end of 2009.

Jet Aviation also announced its intention to offer more contemporary designs for aircraft interiors and showcased these on 1:25-scale models of VIP versions of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350. The company’s Basel, Switzerland completions house has partnered with designer Peder Eidsgaard for a fresh approach to what can be offered.

“The client base for corporate aircraft is getting younger and there is increasing demand for contemporary design. We wanted to show what we could do,” said Rainer Albecker, senior vice president and general manager of Jet Aviation Basel.
Meanwhile, Jet Aviation’s new U.S. subsidiary, Midcoast Aviation, enjoyed a higher profile at this year’s EBACE. The St. Louis-based firm was named a new sales and service center for Thrane & Thrane’s satellite communication systems and a distributor for Lufthansa Technik’s networked integrated cabin equipment system.

Cessna announced orders for nine new Citations during EBACE. First, its Saudi Arabia-based Middle East distributor ordered four Sovereigns, two XLSes and a CJ3 in the hopes of adding to the 18 Citations it placed in its territory last year. Then, Dubai-based charter operator Gulf Jet ordered four more Citations–a Sovereign that will be delivered next month and three XLS jets to come next year.

The U.S. manufacturer also completed sales of eight of its Caravan turboprops to two undisclosed customers. Four of the Caravans are going to a Russian buyer and will receive the Oasis corporate interior. The other four are heading for the Middle East.

Separately, Cessna announced a 300-pound payload increase for the Sovereign. This will be available to all existing operators at no cost and with no modification required.
Bombardier logged four new aircraft sales at EBACE. Swiss operator Comlux signed for one of the Canadian OEM’s new Challenger 605s and a pair of the larger Challenger 850 corporate shuttles. Japan’s Global Wings became the Asian launch customer for the 605 by ordering one copy.

Lisbon-based Omni and its Paris subsidiary Omni Aero Services have been appointed exclusive Learjet sales representatives for Portugal and France. Omni, which also has a charter and management arm, is already a Bombardier operator and recently added a Learjet 45 to its Le Bourget-based fleet.

During the show, Bombardier and Italian sports car maker Ferrari signed a marketing partnership. This will see owners of Ferrari 430 cars have the chance to try the Skyjet International block charter service, while Skyjet clients can test drive the exclusive automobiles.

Separately, the Canadian airframer announced that its Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services maintenance facility will open a new hangar for Learjets at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport. The new building should be complete by the end of this month, adding more than 21,000 sq ft to double the company’s Learjet support capacity.

Raytheon came home from Geneva with sales of five Premier IAs in its order book. UK charter firm Club328 agreed to buy at least four more pre-owned examples of the light jet. These aircraft should enter its fleet by year-end, and the operator is now looking to hire type-rated pilots for these.

Before the show was over, businessman Bjorn Haid purchased the Premier IA that Raytheon had on display at EBACE. This is the 25th Premier in Europe and will be the fourth to be registered in Switzerland.

Raytheon gave a European debut to its newly certified Hawker 850XP midsize jet at EBACE. It appeared alongside a Hawker 400 and a Premier IA.

Austrian charter operator JetAlliance ordered a CFM56-5-powered Airbus Corporate Jetliner, adding long-range, very-large-cabin capability to the almost 40 business jets already in its managed and owned fleet. The ACJ is to be delivered for completion at an as yet unspecified facility in next year’s third quarter.

Airbus also promoted its new A318 Elite by bringing a flight-test aircraft from Toulouse to demonstrate its steep approach capabilities on the Geneva runway. Airbus launched the Elite at last November’s NBAA show and now reports firm orders for 13 copies of the type, which is slightly smaller than the original A319-based ACJ.

Italian operator Eurofly announced that it is to operate its Airbus A319LR “business liner” on scheduled services linking New York City with Milan, Italy’s business capital. The operation will be conducted initially under an agreement with the exclusive Club MilanoManhattan association, which includes entrepreneurs, intellectuals, sportspeople and artists who need to travel frequently between the cities. The aircraft is fitted with 48 seats with 58-inch pitch, and Eurofly holds an option for a similarly configured A319LR.

Meanwhile, Texas-based Gore Design Completions was disclosed as a prospective new completions center for the ACJ series. The company is on track to complete the Airbus qualification process by year-end.

Boeing Business Jets came to EBACE to test-market demand for a proposed new BBJ C model–a new utility version of the Boeing Business Jet that would be distinguished by a large cargo door in the side of the main deck. This would allow operators to use the aircraft for carrying bulky items such as cars, horses or equipment loaded in pallets. The first available delivery slot for the BBJ C is in mid-2008.

The manufacturer confirmed that it has been sending out initial proposals for “green” corporate versions of the proposed 747-8 jetliner and said that it may have signed up its first customer by the end of July. BBJ president Steve Hill reported that the first “green” examples of the new 787 will be available for VIP completion from August 2012.

Gulfstream announced the sale of a G550 to AML. The aircraft will be operated by the customer’s TWC Aviation subsidiary.

The U.S. manufacturer said it will deliver 111 green aircraft this year and 127 next year, representing a significant boost in revenues compared with the 89 deliveries it made last year. The company did not substantiate pre-show speculation of plans of further new additions to its jet offerings, allowing the rumor machine behind the envisioned Gulfstream 600 to keep expectations ticking over until October’s NBAA show in Orlando, Fla.

The U.S. airframer also claimed a new speed record for the G150 light jet flying between Tel Aviv, Israel, and Geneva after it completed the 1,575-nm journey in three hours and 40 minutes at an average cruise speed of Mach 0.82 in the face of headwinds averaging 25 knots. The G150 made its EBACE debut, alongside the G200, G450 and G550.

Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne reported that sales of its new Falcon 7X trijet have remained buoyant despite long lead times for the aircraft stretching to June 2010. The current order tally stands at 80 Falcon 7Xs.

The French airframer also launched a program to boost its customer-support provision, starting with an “added value and pricing guarantee.” If, after a review, Dassault agrees that a Falcon operator could find an equivalent component with the same added value as one of its own parts, it will match the price before installation.

At EBACE, Dassault displayed the first Falcon 7X with a complete interior. This cabin was developed for flight-test purposes, to evaluate factors such as acoustics. The aircraft on display also revealed the type’s first production-conforming winglets and lower tail fin, both of which contributed to its recent range increase.

Grob has selected Kollsman’s enhanced-vision system for its new SPn Utility jet. Kollsman’s General Aviation Vision System (Gavis) will be integrated with a more advanced version of Honeywell’s Apex avionics suite than had originally been intended for the aircraft. Separately, Swiss cabin interiors specialist Burnet is bidding to provide the production interior for the SPn. The company’s craftwork was on display in the cabin of a demonstrator model that the German airframer had on display at EBACE.

Mudabala Development, the Abu Dhabi government-owned investment group that has bought a 35-percent stake in Piaggio Aero, said it intends to play an active role in the management of the Italian manufacturer. Board member Waleed Al Mokarrab told an EBACE press conference that it is conceivable that the Middle Eastern firm could become involved in aircraft manufacturing.

“All options are on the table,” he said. “As an investor, we are primarily looking for commercial gains but Abu Dhabi has a solid aviation infrastructure and we are considering linking the two.” The undisclosed investment that Mudabala has made in Piaggio will provide funds for the Genoa-based firm’s proposed development of a new business jet.

American aviation enthusiast Bob Pond, who owns the first Piaggio Avanti, ordered a new Avanti II at EBACE. He will be adding his original Avanti to his collection at the Palm Springs Air Museum in California.

Portuguese operator Omni Aviacao & Technologia placed an order for a pair of Eurocopter AS 365-N3 Dauphins. The aircraft will be used to support Brazil’s oil and gas industry and will join an Omni fleet that already includes two EC 135s. Eurocopter also announced an order for nine EC 130B4s from Maverick Helicopters of Las Vegas, which is set to become the world’s largest operator of the single-engine type.

The new TBM 850 turboprop single from EADS Socata made an EBACE show debut in Geneva. This is the French manufacturer’s answer to the challenge posed by the VLJs to its traditional marketplace.

EBACE Goes from Strength to Strength
The relentless rise of the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition continued unabated at the sixth annual staging of the show (May 3 to 5). Growth meant that the indoor exhibits had to relocate from Hall 7 of Geneva’s Palais d’Expositions (Palexpo) to the larger Hall 6, and organizers are already making plans to fill both halls beginning next year.

The number of visitors attracted to EBACE 2006 was just short of attaining five figures at 9,743–a 27-percent increase on last year’s tally. There were 292 exhibitors (a 6-percent increase on last year’s figures) and the number of booth spaces that these firms occupied was 37 percent higher at 1,206.

The static display at the adjoining Geneva International Airport was also larger, with 52 fixed-wing aircraft on display. These were supplemented by four helicopters on a covered terrace in front of Hall 6 and two more rotorcraft in Hall 6.

Palexpo offers plenty of growth potential for EBACE with just over one million square feet of exhibition space. This, plus the convenience of its airport location, is one of the reasons that show organizers have committed to keeping EBACE in Geneva at least until 2009. Dates for the next three events are May 22 to 24, 2007; May 20 to 22, 2008; and May 12 to 14, 2009.

Market Access, Environment and Security Dominate EBACE Agenda
The EBACE 2006 conference agenda served up hope that long-running transatlantic disputes about market access for charter and fractional ownership operators might be resolved, or at least eased by compromise on both sides. NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen assured delegates that he expects to achieve a relaxation in unpopular restrictions on European charter operators wanting to fly into the U.S. In return, he argued that European authorities should accept a private categorization for fractional operations.

The debate on security served largely to reveal the degree of widespread confusion about the European Commission’s current and proposed requirements. The EC is now working to revise its existing EC2320 framework legislation and is expected to issue revised rules by the end of this year or early next year. But the conference session revealed that–almost five years after 9/11–states such as the UK are enforcing EC2320 to the letter, while other European countries have treated this as little more than an optional guideline.

European Commission transport and environment directorate official Ronny Rohart confirmed that business aviation will be part of the EC’s proposed emissions-trading program. This was despite the best efforts by Rich Gage, chairman of the International Business Aviation Council’s environmental issues working group, to downplay the environmental impact of modern corporate aircraft.

News Digest
Honeywell confirmed that it will provide its latest Apex cockpit for the new Grob SPn Utility light business jet. The German airframer had planned to offer an earlier version of Apex as the standard cockpit suite for the SPn but has now decided to deliver the aircraft with the enhanced version from the start of production. This means the aircraft will benefit from systems such as TCAS II collision avoidance and weather radar.

Rockwell Collins offered operators of Piaggio Aero P.180 Avantis the chance to upgrade their cockpits to the same Pro Line 21 avionics suite that is standard on the current-production Avanti II. The package is an alternative to Honeywell’s Primus Epic suite, which is also a retrofit option for the Italian twin turboprop.

Dassault has named the Pilot View electronic flight bag from CMC Electronics a standard option in current-production Falcon 2000s and 900s (the DX and EX versions). The portable computer will supplement the aircraft’s EASy integrated avionics system, giving pilots direct access to checklists, electronic approach charts, moving maps and graphical weather.

Universal Weather & Aviation announced the opening of a new FBO in the Irish capital Dublin as well as the completion of a major refurbishment project at its Paris Le Bourget facility. The flight-planning group also confirmed that it has finally secured a ground-handling license allowing it to serve customers directly at Rome Ciampino Airport. Universal also introduced its new online master crew list and advanced passenger information systems to speed the application process for security identification.

British Virgin Islands-based Mikado Capital signed an agreement to purchase four Dornier 328 Jets from 328 Support Services, which is reconfiguring the former regional airliners for corporate use. In January, 328 Support Services’ UK parent company Club328 acquired the assets of former 328Jet manufacturer AvCraft Aerospace with a view to providing support to the worldwide fleet and remarketing out-of-service aircraft.

Prague-based flight planning ground-handling group Feras is rolling out its new StarJet customer loyalty program. This promises savings based on the volume of business conducted, as well as advantages such as guaranteed lowest contract fuel prices, flat fees for slots and overflight/landing permits, electronic billing, detailed airport fee and estimate analysis and discounts on airport charges. The program also offers some timesaving advantages, such as electronic billing, Web-based services and landside arrangements.

Satellite communications specialist Satcom Direct introduced a new service called International Global One Number that allows customers to use their own home country code as a dialing prefix when flying. This eliminates the burden of customers always having to dial a U.S.-based prefix routing number when placing voice, fax or data calls.

ExxonMobil Aviation is now able to use its own staff and equipment to refuel aircraft at Milan Linate Airport, making a breakthrough into what has been a fiercely guarded monopoly at one of Italy’s main business aviation gateways. TAG Aviation has also awarded the fuel company a six-year contract to supply fuel at the UK’s Farnborough Airport.

CMC Electronics announced the introduction of its new compact satellite communications high-gain antenna system. The top-mounted, low-profile SatLite antenna will support Inmarsat Aero-H/H+, Swift64 and SwiftBroadband operations on business jets and regional airliners. It weighs less than 17 pounds and is due to be certified for launch customer Boeing by the middle of this year. Separately, the Canadian firm and Universal Avionics signed a multi-year distributor agreement under which Universal will market CMC’s M-Series infrared enhanced-vision system. Executives from both firms said that this should form the foundation for close cooperation in which the partners will represent each other in non-competing areas of the avionics and communications systems markets.

Cessna has selected the TCAS 2000 traffic collision avoidance system from Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems as standard equipment for its Citation X, Sovereign and XLS jets. The avionics firm, which is a joint venture between L-3 Communications and Thales, recently introduced a new TCAS 3000 system, which is featured on Dassault’s Falcon 7X.

Thales announced that Embraer has selected its integrated electronic standby instrument for the cockpits of its new Phenom 100 and 300. The equipment is already standard on all of the Brazilian manufacturer’s regional airliners.

Bombardier has selected the eNfusion AMT-3800 high-gain antenna from Canada’s  as a factory option for the Global Express XRS and 5000. The fuselage-mounted, low-profile antenna provides access to Inmarsat’s Swift64 and SwiftBroadband high-speed-data services, as well as to worldwide voice calling.

Geneva-based aircraft charter and management firm PrivatAir confirmed that it is at an advanced stage of evaluating additional large jets. Among its prospective targets are executive-configured versions of the new Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 airliners.

Lufthansa Technik signed a letter of intent with Moscow FBO Vnukovo-3 under which it would provide technical support for Western business aircraft operating into the Russian capital.