The Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) expects this year’s ABACE to be an active one, potentially bringing the region’s business aviation industry out of the doldrums it has been in since the staging of last year’s event.
AsBAA board member Jean Noel Robert, who is also a Hong Kong-based senior executive with Airbus, told AIN, “After a lot of excitement right before the event last year and in the two months afterwards, things went quiet; almost everything stopped.” Robert attributed the drop-off in activity to economic uncertainty and impending political changes in the U.S. and China. “Everyone was in observer mode, so we had a bit of a rollercoaster feeling in the industry last year.” As a result, “2012 was a bit of a disappointment compared with 2011, [which] was a great year, especially in China.”
On the positive side, while sales of new aircraft by the OEMs were down, sales of used aircraft were well up on 2011. “There were lots of secondhand transactions so all the brokers, consultants and operators were busy. We saw 100 aircraft coming into mainland China.”
The other problem was that infrastructure had difficulty coping with this influx of aircraft, and there were “difficult” delays in getting aircraft on the Chinese register. However, the industry has a “green light” so there is “no reason why we can’t be a success.”
As for AsBAA itself, it managed through a joint letter with NBAA, GAMA and HAI to persuade the Chinese finance ministry to back down over proposals to tax business aviation. “People tend to think it’s rich people coming in,” said Robert, “So we need to show them [the aircraft are] business tools, not rich boys’ toys.”
And what progress is AsBAA itself making? “We haven’t been active as we were struggling to find a full-time employee,” Robert acknowledged. “But we have one now, Cindy Du, who is based in Beijing.” He added that the “number of members is still increasing” and some activities have taken place–for example, an operating committee in Singapore “to which the industry responded well,” he said. “So we’re seeing actions in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.”
So what will ABACE this year bring? “The whole of the industry, especially the OEMs, is looking forward to an active event in April,” said Robert. “We have had to increase dramatically the show surface area so it will be bigger. It should compensate for a lackluster year.”