Ebace 2012 Preview: Manufacturers Gather for Europe’s Must-attend Event

 - April 3, 2012, 5:35 AM
The 62 aircraft on static display at last year’s Ebace contrasted starkly with the economic gloom, and organizers expect this year’s show to have a similar turnout.

While Europe’s economies continue to struggle, and in some cases flirt with disaster, there might be a case for playing down expectations over prospects for the annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (Ebace). But the highly successful show has defied general economic pessimism in the years since the financial crisis took hold in the Old World in 2008, and the 2012 event (May 14 to 16) looks as if it could be no exception when it opens again in Geneva, one of Europe’s most prosperous cities.

As of press time, exhibitor bookings stood at 400 and it remains to be seen how close the final tally might get to the 2011 high-water mark of 511 exhibitors. Last year, the show drew 12,751 attendees–a total that had been exceeded only once since the show was launched by the European Business Aviation Association and the U.S. NBAA in 2000.

With Ebace now well established as a must-attend event on the business aviation calendar, the exhibitor list features not only all the world’s leading business aircraft manufacturers but also an extremely diverse array of equipment and service providers from across the full spectrum of this complex industry. What’s more, the show now has geographical reach that goes way beyond Europe, drawing both exhibitors and visitors from the Americas, Russia and the CIS, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In some respects–though not in terms of scale–Ebace has become a more global business aviation event than even NBAA’s own annual shows in the U.S.

Gulfstream Aerospace should be set for a big show, with both the new G650 and G280 closing in on full certification. As of press time, there had been no confirmation as to which aircraft any airframer will show on the static display in Geneva. It is a safe bet that Cessna will be looking to gather momentum with the new Citation Latitude and M2, both of which it unveiled last fall.

Ebace 2012 could be the opportunity that Piaggio Aero has been awaiting to launch its long-anticipated foray into the jet sector. Mubadala Aerospace, the Italian manufacturer’s leading shareholder, has been gradually building expectations for a program launch over the past year, with indications from its Abu Dhabi base last month that its Strata composites manufacturing facility there is being prepared for a role in the development.

Another prospective new light jet program waiting in the wings at a turboprop manufacturer is that envisioned by Daher-Socata. The French company has been evaluating the test aircraft of the defunct Grob SPn development as the possible foundation for this move, but has been reticent to talk about the plan more recently.

Regulatory Challenges

This year’s Ebace will be the first show for new EBAA CEO Fabio Gamba. Last month, he declared 2012 to be a “pivotal year” for European business aviation.

Among the topics that will dominate the conference agenda in Geneva this year are a proliferation of new taxes targeted at business aviation in states such as Italy and the UK; the financial burden and political crisis posed by the implementation of the European Union’s emissions trading scheme; delays in progress with the Single European Sky next-generation air traffic management network; new rules threatening bizav’s access to slots; and initiatives on rules governing noise, ground handling and local government support for regional airports.

“We may be facing headwinds, but that means we push harder against them,” commented Gamba. “We must demonstrate the significance of our industry. And we must use our expertise and influence to assist politicians and regulators as they weather the global crisis.”

In response to new European Union rules on handling services, EBAA has initiated the new International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH), which mirrors the existing International Standards for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO). “The EU’s ground handling regulation did not include airports [handling] fewer than two million passengers, which is primarily the type of airport from which business aviation operates,” explained EBAA president Brian Humphries. “We will conduct our own quality and safety assessments of fixed-base operators and ground handling against this standard, enhancing both safety and customer experience to the benefit of all.”

EBAA also is stepping up efforts to curtail illegal charter flying in Europe, by publishing guidance on the issue for operators, brokers, passengers, politicians, officials and regulators. At a recent meeting at the European Commission the association won a commitment from national aviation inspectors and the European Aviation Safety Agency to work together to devise solutions to prevent illegal flights.

For more information on the 2012 Ebace show, go to: www.ebace.aero.