Jet Aviation president Peter Edwards said it’s still too early “to call the market bottom,” but he pointed to positive signs emanating from nearly all corners of the industry as an indicator that perhaps the worst of the economic downturn is over.
“Utilization from our managed customers is rising and some charter is coming back from the financial and banking segments, so that’s a positive,” he said, “but we still have a long way to go” before being able to say the market has turned around.
High-end VIP completion work has been largely unaffected by the economic downturn, and European maintenance is holding up, as well, he said. Jet Aviation has even added some management customers who had been under contract with now-defunct JetDirect Aviation in the U.S.
So how much more pain is in store for the business aviation industry? “That’s a tough call,” Edwards said. “Based on the fundamentals, we’re in for a rough ride for the rest of the year. But some OEMs say there have been positive signs on the sales side, and the banking sector has stabilized, which helps.” There are all manner of ways the economic picture could turn darker, Edwards said, but the industry will make it past the gloom. “We’re beginning to feel better than we did a quarter ago,” he said.
Edwards said Jet Aviation’s purchase by U.S. conglomerate General Dynamics has gone smoothly for the most part and added that concerns about the takeover among some of Jet Aviation’s OEM customers are beginning to subside. General Dynamics also owns Gulfstream, presenting a potential conflict for Jet Aviation and its Midcoast Aviation and Savannah Air Center subsidiaries, which do completions work for Gulfstream competitors.
Edwards said the company’s plans to launch a charter subsidiary may be resurrected soon. Before General Dynamics bought Jet Aviation, the Switzerland-based company un-successfully tried to help launch Jet Domain, a company that would be partially owned by Jet Aviation and obtain a U.S. Part 135 operating certificate. Even though Jet Aviation met all the Department of Transportation rules relating to foreign ownership of an air carrier, the FAA refused to issue the certificate. To date, the agency has declined to explain the reasons behind its decision. Asked about Jet Domain, Edwards said the company may pursue such certification now that it’s owned by a U.S.-based parent, although most likely under a different name.