France has not been as badly hit as many other countries by the financial crisis and neither has its business aviation community, according to the French chapter of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA). While acknowledging that the overall economic situation remains critical, EBAA France’s honorary chairman, Olivier de l’Estoile, told AIN that the organization is glad to be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of business aviation at Paris Le Bourget Airport on April 19. It was at the French capital’s bizav gateway that a small EBAA committee met just over 10 years ago to launch the EBACE show.
There is little doubt that market conditions are as tough as they have been for many years for the 90 member companies of EBAA France. But there are positive signs, such as the gradual recovery, since last October, in traffic levels at Le Bourget. The Paris business aviation airport remains the only profitable facility in the Aéroports de Paris group, which also runs the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle Roissy and Orly airports.
Annual traffic at the airport in 2009 fell 10.2 percent to 57,855 movements down from 64,496 in 2008 and even further down from the record 70,775 movements during 2007. Le Bourget experienced a marginal, month-on-month 0.9-percent traffic increase last October, followed by a 2.5-percent increase in November and a more promising 12.1-percent hike in December. A modest 1.25-percent hike in January was followed by a 3-percent dip the following month, the result of four days of strikes by air traffic controllers.
Le Bourget operations manager François Bru told AIN that the strikes alone blocked 450 movements, representing a 9.5-percent traffic loss. Traffic bounced back in March 2010, showing an exceptional 21.2-percent rise over the same month in 2009, which had marked the nadir of the downturn. Earlier indicators from April traffic at Le Bourget suggest that the recovery trend is continuing but de l’Estoile warned that “the industry is not yet out of crisis.”
The decline in demand for business aviation has cost jobs over the past year or so, but according to de l’Estoile, no companies have completely collapsed. Dassault Falcon Service, the charter division of his former employer, was forced to impose short-term working arrangements with its 18 pilots for three months following a 20-percent dip in flying, he said.
EBAA France’s activity to boost business aviation follows EBAA’s recent establishment of its reformed airports, handling and ground operations committee.
Its declared aim is to support the sustainable growth of business aviation and the interests of EBAA members by promoting fair and equitable access to airports. The committee also seeks to ensure safety and standards of best practices at airports and handling companies, promote environmentally friendly operations to the benefit of local communities and fight for fair competition for all to meet the needs of aircraft operators, passengers and crews. This, said de l’Estoile, is also part of EBAA France’s efforts to get French business aviation back on its feet.
EBAA France Meets Next in Cannes
EBAA France will hold its annual meeting during next month’s Eur-Avia Cannes general aviation show at Cannes-Mandelieu Airport in the south of France. The meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 4, the first day of the three-day event.
“Because Cannes is the second busiest business airport in France and Eur-Avia is the only general aviation exhibition in southern Europe, it seemed to me to be natural to hold our meeting at this event,” commented EBAA France president Eric Aguettant. For more information, see www.eur-avia.com.
Le Bourget Marks Golden Anniversary
At last month’s 50th anniversary celebration at Le Bourget, EBAA France commemorated the March 17, 1960 arrival at the airport of an Aero Commander 680 belonging to IBM World Trade. IBM Europe used the aircraft to make business trips in France, the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The event was hosted by the French government’s transport secretary, Dominique Bussereau, and director general of civil aviation, Patrick Gandil. They honored former IBM pilots François Chavatte (EBAA’s former president) and American Charles McKinnon–effectively the first bizav pilots to touch down at Le Bourget.
“Several business aircraft had landed at Le Bourget before Chavatte and McKinnon’s airplane but the Aero Commander was the first to be identified as such,” said EBAA France’s honorary chairman, Olivier de l’Estoile. The 50th anniversary celebrations that continue throughout the year will also highlight France’s regions. In cooperation with the French civil aviation authority–DGAC–and the national commercial aviation federation–FNAM–a business aircraft will attempt to visit more than 100 airfields in 24 hours,goal that was not achieved during an attempt in 2009 due to unfavorable weather conditions.