Last year the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE) in Shanghai was reborn on a wave of growing confidence in China as an emerging market for business aviation goods and services. It drew 156 companies to the 43,000-sq-foot exhibit floor.
ABACE organizers are forecasting 175 exhibitors at next month's show (to be held from April 16 to 18) and no small number of those from all corners of the globe will be from the cabin completion and refurbishment industry segment and its suppliers.
Few centers have been more successful in establishing a presence in China than Flying Colours, a Peterborough, Ontario MRO and completion and refurbishment facility. Last year the center delivered four Challenger 850s in the region and it has five more of that model in the pipeline, with completion and delivery to China expected within the next 12 months. In addition, it delivered two Global Express major refurbishments for Chinese clients last year. By year-end, Flying Colours will have delivered a total of 15 Challenger 850s to China. In fact, said president John Gillespie, “we have considered opening our own facility as well as the option of working with a Chinese partner via a joint venture.”
Aircraft interiors design and engineering firm Talco of San Antonio is forging closer ties with a number of refurbishment centers in Asia, including Ameco, Jet Aviation and Taeco. According to president and CEO Tom Langeland, there is growing demand in China for cabin refurbishment that is technology driven. With that in mind, Talco has opened an office in Hong Kong and has local representation in Xiamen.
Aeria Luxury Interiors, launched last year at the Singapore Air Show, is also in San Antonio. Part of ST Aerospace of Singapore, it has already signed two projects with Chinese clients: a BBJ that required a maintenance check as well as interior work, and a Boeing 767-200ER for major refurbishment.
Also in the U.S., Associated Air Center in Dallas delivered two Boeing Business Jets to operators in China last year.
SR Technics in Zurich delivered its first major cabin refurbishment to a Chinese client last year and OHS Aviation Services in Berlin is collaborating with Honeywell and Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services to do a major cabin refurbishment of an Asian customer’s Global Express.
Jet Aviation Singapore has a well established center in that island city state and, in addition to numerous repair station approvals, has increased its focus on cabin refurbishment.
In China itself is Ameco Beijing, a joint partner with German maintenance, repair, overhaul and cabin completion heavyweight Lufthansa Technik. The center is new to business and private aircraft support and is rapidly expanding is refurbishment activity.
Also in China is Taikoo, better known in the West as Taeco (Taikoo Aircraft Engineering Company). The Xiamen-based center is the first and only center with authorization from both Airbus and Boeing to provide cabin outfitting.
All the above completion and refurbishment specialists, and others yet to test the waters, are banking on China, and indeed much of the Pacific Rim, as a long-term market.
ForeignPolicy.com, an online magazine of global politics and economics, takes a long-term look at China, estimating that by 2040 its economy will hit $123 trillion and per capita income will be in the $85,000 range.
A recent briefing by China-Window.com, “a clearing house for all things Chinese,” predicted China will become “the world’s safest and largest investment economy in times to come.”
JetNet, a Utica, N.Y.-based provider of aviation market intelligence, will release its “State of the Market” briefing at ABACE, and, according to JetNet iQ Briefing creator/director Rolland Vincent, the numbers from JetNet iQ show the business aviation fleet in Asia currently representing 5 percent of the worldwide total, but accounting for an eye-opening 15 percent of the worldwide business jet movements.
“Any way you look at the numbers, you realize that Asia is a long-term market for business aviation that has only begun to embrace the industry,” he concluded.
While there are no guarantees in life, and certainly not in the world of business, no few business aviation completion and refurbishment executives are taking the words of Shakespeare to heart. To whit: “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” said Brutus in the bard’s Julius Caesar. And he concluded, “On such a full sea we are now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”