EBACE Convention News

EBACE retrospective: 2005-2009

 - May 5, 2010, 7:33 AM

This week’s gathering here in Geneva is the tenth staging of the annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE). Yesterday’s edition of EBACE Convention News explained how the show quickly captured the industry’s imagination in its first four years. Today, AIN picks up the story in 2005 and runs through the highlights of shows from the second half of the last decade.

2005

European business aviation’s boom years in the middle of the last decade saw rising visitor attendance reach 7,667 at EBACE 2005–an 18.2-percent increase over the previous year and more than double the number registering at the first event four years earlier. In the same year, exhibitors numbered a record 278 and, for the first time, more than 50 business aircraft were on static display, including the first completed Raytheon Hawker Horizon (now known as the Hawker 4000).

Confirming the upswing in demand for business aircraft in this part of the world, manufacturers reported orders and options estimated at around $420 million during the show. No new clean-sheet aircraft designs were unveiled and so, apart from new sales (see box), manufacturers’ news covered derivative models or highlighted current developments.

For instance, Airbus and Lufthansa Technik (LHT) unveiled an Airbus A380 model showing a possible concept for VIP cabin completions, saying that the first private A380 could be in service within five years. At the time, then Airbus executive- and private-aviation vice president Richard Gaona said he would be “pushing for one or two additional airframes [for corporate customers] in 2008-09.” LHT said the first completion of a “green” A380 could take two years.

Boeing Business Jets was discussing a 737-600-based variant, while Bombardier launched the Challenger 850, 870 and 890 family of corporate shuttles, based on the CRJ200, -700 and -900 regional airliners. Gulfstream discussed G150 developments and Raytheon Aircraft announced Hawker 800XP and Premier I upgrades.

European Commission (EC) director of air transport Daniel Calleja Crespo outlined the new European Union (EU) air transport strategy in the following terms: “We do not want to overregulate the industry, [but] to find more effective solutions to ensure the [sector’s] competitiveness and provide better infrastructure.” Opinion remains divided as to the extent to which EC officials have honored this commitment.

At the time, the EC had four priorities: consolidation of the internal market, with further liberalization while securing fair competition; increased European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) powers to regulate air operations and crew licensing and to promote an emissions-trading program; extended EU aviation rules through agreements with other countries; and improved airport capacity, the main challenge to growth.

The joint EBAA/NBAA industry working group on business aircraft operations was developing recommendations to harmonize rules for private and on-demand charter operations within Europe and between the U.S. and the EU.

2006

The rise and rise of EBACE continued in 2006, in a larger exhibition hall and promises of two more halls to be added the following year. Visitor numbers increased 27 percent to 9,743, as exhibitors grew 6 percent to 292. The adjacent static display featured 52 fixed-wing aircraft (one more than 2005), while six helicopters also were displayed.

Rather than wait for that year’s U.S. NBAA Convention (and perhaps with an eye to the growing number of Middle Eastern visitors to Europe’s show), Embraer used EBACE 2006 to launch its new E190-based Lineage 1000 very large-cabin business jet. Executive jets senior vice president Luis Carlos Affonso confirmed plans for a family of products that would fill gaps between the Legacy, Lineage and Phenom models–which, indeed, subsequently appeared in the shape of the Legacy 450 and 500.

An increasingly high profile was being afforded to very light jets (VLJs) in mid-decade, as witnessed by JetBird’s 50-strong Phenom 100 order (see below), but no real VLJ was displayed. Neither the Cessna Citation Mustang nor Eclipse 500 materialized, although mockups of the Advanced Technology Group Javelin and Embraer’s Phenom 100 and 300 were shown.

JetBird was planning fixed flight-hour charter rates (without direct positioning charges), with mini-hubs basing up to 25 aircraft each. Low acquisition and operating costs were expected to permit charges less than half those of competitors. Today, the Ireland-based company is struggling to raise the additional capital it needs to take delivery of its aircraft and begin operations.

Confirming European VLJ ambitions, UK-based JetSet Air announced a partnership with German charter firm Cirrus Aviation to operate up to 50 Eclipse 500s. JetSet was negotiating to buy up to 10 Phenom 100s for delivery by 2009, two years after scheduled receipt of its first Eclipse 500.

Making its European debut was the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 high-performance light jet, which, some would say, anticipated the VLJ age when the SJ-30 was unveiled some 20 years earlier. Adam Aircraft was expecting to appoint a European factory-direct sales representative for its A700 AdamJet and A500 piston twin. European A700 certification was expected by December 2007. Spectrum Aeronautical planned a European support network for the Spectrum 33 jet around
its Spectrum Aviation Europe subsidiary, established in 2005.

Cessna announced a 300-pound payload increase for the Sovereign, while Raytheon showed the Hawker 850XP midsize jet in Europe for the first time and EADS Socata displayed the new TBM 850 turboprop single. Abu Dhabi government-owned investment group Mubadala Development’s 35-percent stake in Piaggio Aero was expected to fund its proposed new business jet but it still hasn’t seen the light of day.

Dassault displayed the eagerly anticipated first Falcon 7X with a complete interior and production-conforming winglets and lower tail fin. Jet Aviation showed 1:25-scale models of VVIP Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 variants, two types being considered by Geneva-based charter and management firm PrivatAir.
The new A318 Elite flight-test aircraft’s steep approach capabilities were demonstrated by Airbus. Boeing Business Jets was proposing a BBJ C model with a large side cargo door and had distributed initial proposals for “green” corporate 747-800 variants. The U.S. airframer said that the first green 787s would be available for completion from August 2012– although subsequent serious program delays now mean that this will likely not be the case.

2007

EBACE 2007 extended the European event’s growth as the show was now attracting five-figure crowds, with 11,273 visitors and 354 exhibitors. Many airframe manufacturers were assigned to a hall adjacent to the 61-strong static aircraft display, as the organizers confirmed dates for the coming five events and their plans to keep the show in Geneva.

No new business jets were announced–possibly betraying manufacturers’ caution that the good times could not last or perhaps that they would be occupied trying to clear production backlogs that extended for three, four or more years. Cessna displayed a mockup of its large-cabin concept–expected to accommodate nine passengers, but with no avionics, engines or interior arrangements defined–ahead of a possible program decision before 2008. The Eclipse 500 made its first EBACE appearance.

Airbus had the A318 Elite
on the ground this time, displaying the first of launch customer Comlux’s five aircraft with an 18- passenger LHT interior. It counted more than 20 A318s among orders for 80 Airbus Corporate Jets taken since 1997. To meet demand, Airbus had appointed LHT and Jet Aviation Basel as ACJ completion centers.

Boeing said a corporate 747-800 would offer 5,667 sq ft of floor space and Dubai-Los Angeles nonstop range. In the previous 12 months, Boeing Business Jets had taken orders for 12 BBJs, two BBJ2s, three BBJ3s, six 787s and four 747-800s.

The jet card block charter concept seemed to have taken off in Europe, with programs coming from Geneva-based PrivatAir (Select), Belgium’s Flying Group (FlyingCard), French helicopter-charter operator Aviaxess (Avia- card), and Air Partner (Jet Card).

2008

The 2008 EBACE show delivered the highest attendance to date, with almost 13,700 visitors and 440 exhibitors and more than 60 aircraft posed on the ramp. Business jet production capacity was stretched thin by soaring demand, especially a buying surge outside of North America, according to manufacturers.

That year’s conference was dominated by debates about airspace constraints and airways access, and impending implementation of Europe’s emissions trading scheme (ETS). EC air transport director Daniel Calleja Crespo was back, pledging “more proportionate” rules for business aviation.

Gulfstream reported a “healthy number” of G650s covered by letters of intent as it prepared to fly the newly launched aircraft in 2009. Backlog was put at five years, with orders from outside North America for 2007 representing a record 56 percent of business.

Dassault introduced the Falcon 900LX, whose Aviation Partners winglets increased range by 300 nm to 4,800 nm. The French manufacturer expected certification before July 2010, but would not talk about a prospective SMS super-midsize business jet before taking initial orders, possibly before 2009.

An EBACE debutante was Honda Aircraft, which announced appointment of three European dealers for its HondaJet, saying the region was one of the fastest growing markets. FlightSafety International would train European pilots. Honda unveiled an in-flight entertainment system employing ceiling-mounted, high-definition touch panels for control of video and audio, climate and cabin/cockpit communications systems.

Piaggio had redefined its Avanti II interior to create the “Avanti II.it,” the suffix denoting Italian technology. New features included broadband connection, cabin-entertainment, LED lighting throughout and electro- chromic windows.
Snecma announced that the 9,500- to 12,000-pound thrust Silvercrest business jet engine’s core demonstrator had completed four months’ testing, running for 80 hours, including 60 hours ignited, and reaching its 20,300-rpm nominal takeoff speed.

Switzerland-based ExecuJet announced plans to extend facilities in China, India and Russia. UK-based Gama Aviation was planning Middle East expansion with an office in Dubai and an FBO in Sharjah. MAZ Aviation and Comlux Aviation announced joint acquisition of a 40-percent stake in the Airbus Corporate Jet Centre in Toulouse.

2009

Perhaps surprisingly, the recession was not uppermost in minds at last year’s EBACE: the dismal economy was just another hurdle to add to the relentless perceived obstacles to European aviation that aircraft owners, operators and service providers determined to take in their stride. There were more aircraft (65) on display than in 2008 despite visitor numbers falling below 11,000 and a near 7-percent decline in
exhibitors, but the show did not meet the most pessimistic fears. Nevertheless, last year’s EBACE show was devoid of new-aircraft announcements and large orders, although Middle East companies remained strong buyers.

Boeing Business Jets offered 807 sq ft of “overhead space utilization” above the aft cabins of corporate 747-800s, accessible by stairs and available for a lounge or up to 16 enclosed berths. This Greenpoint Technologies modification uses capacity created by moving cables, hydraulics and air conditioning to the sidewalls.

Airbus reported a 40-strong corporate jet backlog, including eight A350s and two A340-500s plus 15 narrowbodies ordered during 2008, while ATR introduced executive versions of the ATR 42 and 72 regional airliners, offering capacity for up to 50 people in a stand-up cabin.

Dassault unveiled a new Falcon 7X optional interior, designed by BMW DesignworksUSA and available from 2011, but Daher-Socata had delayed a launch decision on an eight- to 10-seat turbine twin until year’s end.

Cessna expected to ship 290 to 300 jets in 2009, down from 467 in 2008, consoled by a $13 billion backlog. “The [U.S.] stock market is rising, consumer spending is improving, housing activity has stabilized [and] general inventories are declining,” said chairman Jack Pelton, who two weeks previously announced suspension of the Cessna Citation Columbus and closure of its factory in Corvalis, Oregon,
and moving that production to Kansas.

Likewise, Gulfstream Aerospace was suffering mixed fortunes, with layoffs and cost-
cutting offset by first-quarter deliveries, revenues, earnings and backlog described as “relatively strong.” The Bombardier Learjet 85 remained on schedule for service entry in 2013 despite the demise of Grob Aerospace, previously contracted for preproduction-prototype design and production. Global 5000 and Learjet 40XR range had been extended.

Emivest Aerospace SJ30 distributor Action Aviation expected to receive its first Emivest-built example during 2009; line positions reportedly were sold into 2011. Aerion was looking for a major manufacturer to join a supersonic business jet design study it hoped would lead the other party to proceed with full-scale development and production. “We are confident we will reach [such] an agreement,” said industry veteran and vice chairman Brian Barents. Similarly, Farnborough Aircraft sought a U.S. partner to help market the Kestrel turboprop single and obtain FAA certification.

EC air transport leader Calleja Crespo was back, trying to convince the industry that the Commission wasn’t trying to add to the industry’s woes–despite appearances to the contrary. “The Commission is willing to work with you,” he said about the ETS.
“We need to find a workable system, and we are keen to [accommodate] the concerns of business aviation.” But less than three months later EC officials were pressing ahead with deadlines for ETS registration despite being woefully ill- prepared to implement and manage the contentious scheme.

Industry concerns included ETS, “inappropriate” blanket security proposals and constrained access to airports used increasingly by low-cost airlines. Airport access priority in Europe was given to aircraft carrying the most passengers, a situation “as challenging as any we’ve ever seen,”
said EBAA president Brian Humphries. NBAA president Ed Bolen worried that U.S. operators flying to Europe would pay to offset carbon emissions for the entire flight, not just the European portion.

The EC energy and transport directorate’s Mireille Dorr explained there were no specific European security rules for business aviation. Rather, member states maintained national rules for general aviation and had authority to develop security rules for business aviation. The EC was working with EBAA on security “to ensure [EU] business aviation flights are covered by the same security regime [but] it was impossible to get agreement from all member states.” In the absence of national business aviation security regulations, the EU would probably impose airline rules, advised Dorr.