Business aviation gathers for Shanghai show

 - April 30, 2011, 12:50 PM

The first Shanghai International Business Aviation Show (Sibas) garnered mixed reviews from its exhibitors, but generally the perception was that it was a success, despite teething problems, such as no food on site and some issues with shipping. However, these were offset by the quality of attendees who showed up and the fact that organizer World Events Agency managed to pull off the show at all. 

The inaugural event took place at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, which is home to the executive aviation terminal and China’s flagship FBO run by Australia’s Hawker Pacific. Aircraft on the static park included a Bombardier Challenger 300 (recently purchased by operator Donghai Jet) and Challenger 850; a Boeing Business Jet; a Cessna Citation Sovereign and Citation XLS; a Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350 and Hawker 900; a Dassault Falcon 2000LX and Falcon 7X; a Gulfstream G550, G450, G200 and G150; and a Piaggio Avanti operated by Indonesia’s SusiAir. There were also helicopters from MD Helicopters and an AW109 and AW119 from AgustaWestland.

Chinese exhibitors included homegrown aircraft builders Comac and charter operators China Eastern Airlines, as well as TAG Aviation’s potential joint-venture partner Lilyjet. TAG Asia and TAG Farnborough Airport were among the international exhibitors, as were Singapore Air Charter, VistaJet, Jet Aviation, Universal Weather & Aviation, Gore Design, Arinc and Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Aircraft manufacturers were generally bullish about the event, reporting strong leads. Cessna international sales vice president Trevor Esling said, “It is the first major business aviation show in Mainland China, and we’ve had some good opportunities to meet people from both inside and outside China.”

Investment in Building Business Aviation

A two-day conference also took place during the show, with dignitaries from state aviation authority CAAC and manufacturing entities speaking about the advent of business aviation in China and issues that must be addressed.

Xiu Chao Qian, secretary of China’s air traffic control, spoke to the need of developing an industrial chain. He said, “If we look at the catalog of the last four years, the CAAC spent RMB100 billion as part of the five-year investment plan. We have improved the lower airspace radar network and are adding GPS to some airports. We plan to expand the usage to business aviation.”

He added that the CAAC is to examine higher-altitude airspace, which already has several optimized airways to create more efficient routes and services, both for the environment and to develop the industry. He also said that China must invest in high-technology solutions such as building an intelligent power grid, GPS and better weather forecast systems. He continued,| “Airport planning [represents] significant change, and local governments must make a contribution. Air routes such as Shanghai-Beijing are incredibly busy.”

Norman Lo, director general of the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department, said that his jurisdiction serves not only the 3 million people in Hong Kong, but also the 60 million who live in the Pearl River Delta area, one of China’s most significant industrial spaces. Wu Tong Shui, president of the Civil Aviation University of China, spoke about the need to put more focus on business aviation development and to get high-level government people involved in its development. He added that building infrastructure and facilities and creating an efficient parts supply system is key to China’s growth.

Wang Xuamin, a researcher in the airworthiness inspection department, spoke about how difficult it is to get old aircraft certified for business aviation use. He said, “We need to put more effort into boosting development and improvement. We need more FBOs, pilots and mechanics.” 

On-site newspapers produced by the CAAC detailed China’s intention to reform its civil aviation sector and shed light on the slow pace of such advances. An article on the reform of low-altitude airspace management said that it had taken Minister Du Qiang, deputy director of the administration office of the state administration committee, and his team 10 years to draft the new document.

The article also noted that Wang Wenyi, who heads the Air Police Department of the Ministry of Public Security, estimates that China’s vastness will make dividing airspace–9.6 million sq km of land and a further 1.5 million sq km of sea–another 10–year process in the country’s mission to implement an efficient and technologically advanced air traffic management system.

One of the hotter topics before the event even opened its doors was the development of business aviation shows in China. Last month at the Asian Aerospace show, NBAA announced its intention to run the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (Abace) at the same venue–Hongqiao Airport–next February. World Events Agency also announced its intention to run a second Sibas next April. The two entities had already discussed collaboration, but negotiations had fallen through. However, after the show a spokesman for World Events Agency said that his company intends to approach NBAA once again and “sincerely hopes that they can reach an agreement to co-host one show.”