Bizav Dominates the Stage at India Aviation Show

 - May 5, 2012, 5:53 AM

Judging by the dominance of business jets at India Aviation 2012, held at Hyderabad in southern India from March 14 to 18, predictions of double-digit general aviation growth in the country have inspired manufacturers and service providers to boost their presence in the market.

India’s ailing airliner sector was conspicuous by its absence from the third biennial show, barring a static display of the Boeing 787 in Air India’s colors and a mock-up of the Russian Irkut MC-21 airliner. Instead, a spurt of announcements relating to India’s business aviation sector lifted spirits.

AgustaWestland and Tata Sons inaugurated the final assembly line for the AW119 helicopter at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, marking the start of construction of a new helicopter production facility in India. Developed under an agreement signed in 2010 for the formation of an Indian joint-venture company called Indian Rotorcraft, the facility will assemble, customize and flight-test new helicopters for the worldwide market. The joint venture will initially produce the eight-seat AW119Ke, with production beginning in the middle of next year.

Rival Eurocopter announced its first 2012 sales in India, with orders for one example each of the AS350B3e, an EC135 and an EC155, all in executive configuration. Last year, four out of five AS350B3s delivered went to Indian clients, with the latest being ordered by G.R. Constructions for corporate use.

The executive charter business in India seems to be taking off. “India is one of our priority markets. We see a good potential here,” said Sukhoi president Vladimir Prisyazhnyuk. Last October, India’s Aviotech signed a letter of intent for 10 VIP versions of Sukhoi’s Superjet SJ100 single-aisle airliner.

Making a debut in India with the Czech Republic-built Let 410UVP-E20, Indian sales representative InterGlobe announced orders for four of the 19-seat twin turboprops. New Delhi-based Asia Aviation is buying three and Hyderabad-based Turbo Aviation will get one–in both cases to operate flights for business travelers. Deliveries start in the third quarter.

Dassault is known in India mainly for its Mirage fighters and the recent choice of the Rafale for India’s new combat aircraft. This military business could now give the French manufacturer a boost in the Indian bizav marketplace, and its Falcons were on display at the India Aviation show.

There are currently 20 Falcons registered in India, and 12 more are on order in the country. Almost half of the new orders are for the Falcon 7X.

Falcon clients in India include infrastructure developers GMR and GVK. “The robustness of the Falcon is important in India, where short airfields, elevated runways and high temperatures are common,” said Dassault sales vice president Gilles Gautier. Supply of timely spares in India has been an issue in the past. To support the growing Falcon fleet, Dassault has opened spares distribution centers in Chennai and Mumbai and installed a technical field team in Mumbai. Mumbai-based Air Works India recently became an authorized service center for the Falcon 900EX. Hawker Beechcraft, too, has entered into an agreement with Air Works to carry spare parts in its forward-stock warehouse in Bengaluru.

Embraer has received type certification from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for the Legacy 650 to be registered in India. The Legacy 650 is the sixth Embraer executive jet to be certified in India, making it one of the few countries in the world to have approved every model, including (last year) the first Lineage 1000 to enter service in India. India has 14 of the 20 Embraer jets in the Asia-Pacific region. Air Works and Indamer are now Embraer’s authorized service centers for maintenance services for the Phenom 100, Legacy 600/650 and Lineage 1000.

As business aviation grows, said Gulfstream regional senior vice president Roger Sperry, expansion of infrastructure in India (including more slots and storage hangars) is desperately required. There are currently 20 Gulfstreams based in India, and Sperry says clients in regional cities are increasingly emerging. “Our commitment to buyers is that we will have the product support available,” he commented.

Piaggio Aero displayed the Avanti II twin turboprop belonging to Indian client MSPL. “A light medium size [turboprop aircraft] is ideal for the Indian market,” said sales director Fabio Sciacca. “Why buy a jet costing $40 million for flying the domestic sector?”