EBACE Convention News

EBACE 2007 gets a 9.5 from the judges

 - May 23, 2007, 1:15 PM

The European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, which hosted its inaugural event here just six years ago with relatively modest ambitions, has blossomed into what some exhibitors now regard as the most important event on their show calendar.

Cessna Aircraft chairman, president and CEO Jack Pelton, standing next to a freshly signed contract for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Citation twinjets, said the show is important because it provides ready access to the European market, as well as to customers from the Middle East, Russia and Asia who make the trip here to Geneva but don’t show up at the NBAA Convention in the U.S. “EBACE is certainly very high value,” he said. “We like the way it’s been organized and we particularly like having the airplanes so close to the exhibit halls.”

As increasing numbers of business jet sales come from markets outside North America, airframe makers are realizing that a show like EBACE is ideal for reaching a new breed of customer.

Jan d’Angelo, senior vice president of international and fleet sales for Englewood, Colorado-based Adam Aircraft (Booth No. 1455), had high hopes for this year’s EBACE and the show has turned out “every bit as good as expected, if not better,” he said yesterday.

“We first came here in May 2005, right after certification of our twin-turboprop A500,” d’Angelo recalled. “We booked a 10-by-10 booth at the very last minute and nobody knew we were coming.” Even so, he and the company’s president were “absolutely swamped,” he said. “We couldn’t get away from the booth and we were overwhelmed by people who came to see us without even knowing we were here.”

Adam was back last year with a big booth and a mockup of its Adam 700 very light jet, but this year it is expending a lot of time, money and effort preparing for a big rollout at the NBAA Convention in Atlanta in September, so the company has actually downsized its exhibit here this time, bringing only a handful of people.

Aero Toy Store, here for the third straight year, rates EBACE “our biggest show of the year,” whether the measure is the value of business done or the nature of contacts made, said the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company’s My Warhaftig.

Aero Toy Store, which claims to be the world’s biggest dealer in used business aircraft, is showing a Boeing Business Jet, two Bombardier Challenger 604s, a Challenger 300, a Challenger 850 and a Learjet 60 in the static display. “Collectively there are more real buyers here than at NBAA,” Warhaftig said. And despite having its headquarters and two of its three other offices in North America, it has found that Europe is its biggest market. “We do better here than at NBAA.”

Not all the exhibitors here were entirely happy with the show, however. Raisbeck Engineering (Booth No. 1354), here to promote its range of performance-enhancing modifications for King Airs and Learjets, had a less positive experience in its first day and a half here. Having attended last year’s event by way of reconnaissance, vice president and general manager Sam Jantzen said he had found this year’s edition “lukewarm,” adding, “At this rate, we’ll not be back next year.”

Jantzen reckoned traffic had been light and said the organizers needed to mix companies throughout both halls and offer more variety. A principal concern was the exhibition layout that Jantzen said separated equipment and services companies from “the OEMs down the way” in Hall 7. Representatives from other companies, including avionics and engines giant Honeywell, also complained about being segregated from the “big” OEMs in Hall 7. (Apart from the major airframe makers, all the other exhibitors this year are housed in Hall 6.)

Raisbeck had booked late, Jantzen conceded, and consequently had only a small booth. It still plans to attend this year’s Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (LABACE) in Brazil despite the “soured” experience here.

Down the aisle in Hall 6, meanwhile, Adam’s d’Angelo sounded a much more optimistic tone about EBACE, echoing Pelton’s comments. “We had appointments already set up in advance for all three days, and mainly with people we haven’t met before,” he said. “These are people that it would be very difficult to meet one-to-one any other way because they are so spread out.”