China, as Asia’s largest prospective market for business aviation, always seemed an obvious choice as the location for the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE). But with demand for business aviation now bubbling in other parts of Asia, and the industry having to show patience in waiting for China to fulfill its potential, some have questioned whether organizer NBAA might consider freshening up the event in some other venue. NBAA answered that question conclusively by doubling the length of the contract it has with city officials in Shanghai to keep ABACE there at least through 2021.
According to NBAA and show co-organizer the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA), ABACE 2014 attracted a record-breaking 187 exhibitors and 38 static-display aircraft, with 78 of the exhibiting firms haling from Asia itself (almost double the 38 companies at the 2012 show, the event NBAA established as the baseline). As of press time, it looked set to top the 7,714 visitors who attended the 2013 show.
Highlighting the strong growth of business aviation in China, Wang Zhiqing, deputy administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said that as of the end of last year, China had 189 general aviation companies, a 41-percent gain over the previous year’s figure, while the fleet had grown by 23.4 percent, to 1,654 aircraft, with general aviation flight time increasing 10 percent, to 569,000 hours. However, after the past three years of rapid growth for general aviation, “momentum is slowing,” Wang said, and he vowed the CAAC will work to keep the industry expanding swiftly. “The essence of business aviation is fast and efficient transportation. It is not a luxury,” he said.
Masaaki Kai, senior deputy director general of Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau, pointed to changes his government is taking to make Japan more friendly toward business aviation. These measures include easing rules for Part 135 charter flights, and improvements for business aviation at Narita Haneda, Central Japan and Kansai International Airports, as well as the airports at Kobe and Nagoya. “I have to admit the scale of business aviation in Japan is still small,” Kai said, but he emphasized the country sees support for business aviation “as part of a national growth strategy.”
The largest deal announced at this year’s ABACE came when China’s Minsheng Financial Leasing confirmed significant new business jet orders placed with both Gulfstream and Bombardier in the fourth quarter of last year. The Gulfstream order for 60 business jets (40 firm and 20 options), spans the U.S. manufacturer’s product line from the super-midsize G280 to the ultra-long-range G550 and G650. The deal, which was agreed during the fourth quarter of 2013 an announced at the show in Shanghai, is new business over and above the aircraft covered by an earlier memorandum of understanding signed back in 2011.The latest order was won through a competitive bidding process and spans several years, with deliveries expected to begin next year and set to include a mix of G280s, G450s, G550s and G650s. During the show, China’s Mandarin Air took the first G280 to be delivered in China.
Minsheng’s order with Bombardier saw it sign for 10 super-midsize Challenger 350s worth approximately $259 million. The first aircraft, an upgrade of the Challenger 300 with greater wingspan and more range, is expected to enter service in the second half of the year.
Aerochine Aviation, an independent representative of Bell Helicopter for China, Hong Kong and Macau, signed a purchase agreement for five more Bell 505s. Shortly afterwards, Aerochine signed another agreement to buy two more Bell 407s.
According to Diana Chou, managing director of Aerochine, one customer has already signed for three of the new 505s, which will be used in sightseeing/tourism operations. Deliveries of these 505s should take place near the end of 2016, she said. The two 407s have been purchased by Yalong General Aviation of Hainan Island. One of these helicopters will be delivered in June and the second early next year.
The Japan National Police Agency has ordered another AgustaWestland AW139 medium twin, scheduled to enter service next year for operations in Kagoshima Prefecture. AgustaWestland and Mitsui Bussan Aerospace announced the sale at the ABACE show, noting that the new AW139 will replace an aging Bell 412 in the police fleet.
Meanwhile, AgustaWestland and Sino-US Intercontinental of China celebrated the grand opening of a joint regional business headquarters in Shanghai on April 9. Last September Sino-US Intercontinental was appointed an official non-exclusive distributor for civil AgustaWestland helicopters in China, but not including Hong Kong and Macau.
Nextant Aerospace announced that it has selected Avic International Aero-Development as its exclusive sales representative for Greater China (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau). This follows Nextant’s appointment of Nextant Pacific as the Asia-Pacific dealer (not including Greater China) for its remanufactured 400XTi twinjets. The company is currently developing the G90XT, a modified King Air 90 twin turboprop with new GE H75 engines and Garmin G1000 avionics.
Nextant Aerospace expects to receive Chinese certification for the 400XTi this year, and the first aircraft in the country will go to Avic International Aero-Development, part of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic) manufacturing group.
Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Centre received CAAC and FAA approval for maintenance of 800-series Hawkers, the company announced. It also has been designated an authorized service facility for Cessna Citations by the newly formed Textron Aviation, which owns Hawker and Beechcraft as well.
ExecuJet Aviation is set to open a new maintenance, repair and overhaul center just outside Beijing this month through its local joint venture, ExecuJet Haite Aviation Services. The Switzerland-based group has offices in Beijing and in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, and is currently constructing an FBO in Bali.
Piaggio Aero announced the appointment of Freesky Aviation as its first authorized service center in mainland China. Freesky, which is based at Tianjin International Airport and also offers aircraft charter and management services, introduced the first Avanti II twin turboprop to China in 2012.
Honeywell Aerospace announced that Bombardier’s new service center in Singapore will offer retrofits, maintenance and upgrades for Honeywell products on the Canadian airframer’s business jets. The agreement covers systems such as the Primus Elite 850 cockpit display, flight management system service bulletin upgrades, satellite communications systems and the Ovation Select cabin management system.
Completions, refurbishment and auxiliary fuel tank provider Pats Aircraft Systems announced the redelivery of a BBJ2 to the Government of Indonesia for presidential transport, and the contract award of the interior completion on a new BBJ2 for an Asia-Pacific customer. Configured to hold up to 67 passengers, the aircraft is the first of any BBJ model to incorporate the Boeing Sky interior.
With the aim of easing the buying process for its customers, Airbus introduced a new model of its ACJ319 Corporate Jet at ABACE. Called the ACJ319 Elegance, the new derivative relieves customers of some of the nearly endless design decisions by offering a new modular cabin that still allows them to choose from an array of lounge, office, dining and conference configurations.
“The ACJ319 Elegance has a fixed front and back: you get a bedroom and a bathroom at the back and at the front you’ve got a galley, two bathrooms and a crew rest,” explained David Velupillai, the company’s marketing director. “Then you, as the customer, choose what you put in the middle.”
Comlux has won a contract to conduct major maintenance and refurbishment work on a Boeing Business Jet based in Asia. The aircraft, operated on behalf of its private owner by Hong Kong-based management company Sino Jet, is due to arrive at the Comlux America completions center in Indianapolis in the second quarter and will spend four months there.
Jet Aviation Management announced that it is adding two Gulfstream G450s and a new Gulfstream G550 to its managed fleet in Asia, bringing to 30 the number of aircraft it operates in the region.
The G550 and one of the G450s will be based in Hong Kong and maintained by the company’s Hong Kong maintenance facility, a Gulfstream authorized warranty service center for the G450/G550/G650. Delivery of the aircraft is expected by the end of next month.