The U.S. National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is making a return trip to the Asia Pacific region after a lapse of several years, largely due to the global recession that began in 2008. The first Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (ABACE) was held here in Shanghai back in 2005, followed by shows held between 2006 and 2008 in Hong Kong.
But the landscape has changed dramatically since those first efforts, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen recalled. “We feel like we went there, we planted a seed, the seed has germinated and now as we go back to Shanghai, I think it’s pretty clear that the seeds we planted in those early shows have now begun sprout,” he told AIN shortly before the show. “And now, everybody, I think, can see the potential for business aviation both in China and in Asia.”
Among the differences in terms of the political environment now, as opposed to then, is that now it only takes hours and not days to get permission to fly in Chinese airspace. There’s now access to airspace below 4,000 meters, Bolen said, and now there is a government commitment to general aviation in China’s five-year plan.
“As I said before, we kind of planted a seed at a time when nobody saw any future there,” he explained, “and we are returning to China at a time when that seed has sprouted and everybody can see the potential for the show.”
Asked if NBAA had a feel for the reception this latest iteration of ABACE would receive, Bolen said the projection is for 6,000 attendees, but he acknowledged estimates are difficult. “I think the thing that we can say is that we expected to host the show [entirely] in the Hawker Pacific hangar,” he said. “That hangar sold out quickly and we were forced to add a pavilion to house additional exhibitors. That too is now sold out.”
As to the static display, every major OEM is bringing airplanes to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. “So I think what you are seeing is that Chinese companies, Asian companies and international business aviation companies are all very enthusiastic about the show,” he added. “We have in terms of VIP attendance the administrator of the Civil Aviation Authority of China [CAAC] and the deputy administrator. So that is incredible government support for the effort.”
Among people representing the U.S. government at ABACE 2012 is Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari.
ABACE presented some logistical hurdles for NBAA that were a little more complicated than those of the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition and the Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition.
Bolen conceded there are geographic and timing challenges putting on a show in the Far East. “China is a long way from Washington, D.C.,” Bolen admitted. “There’s a 13-hour time difference. Having said that, we do routine conference calls with our partners who are in theater there and our team in Washington, and when our team is on the road. So we have very regular communications.”
NBAA also has three people in China who have mostly been in Shanghai for a large part of the year. “We also have tremendous partners over there,” Bolen continued. “We are working very, very closely with the Shanghai Airport Authority, very closely with the Hawker Pacific facility, and we have a sister association–the Asian Business Aviation Association. So we have a lot of partners.”
NBAA also has strong international partnerships like the International Business Aviation Council, the Flight Safety Foundation, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International and a host of other international organizations with which it has been communicating, coordinating and partnering. “So we have done a lot of things to make sure that our communication is strong, the logistics are addressed, and we think the show is going to run smoothly,” Bolen said.
High-ranking aviation and government officials from multiple Asian countries such as Japan, Singapore, Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations will be attending. “When NBAA does a trade show,” he noted, “like all trade shows, we obviously focus intently on putting buyers and sellers together.”
Concluding, Bolen said that at every show the association “projects what is certainly a very accurate, and we think also very positive image or reality of business aviation. And that is that these airplanes are extraordinary business tools that provide critical benefits to companies, to communities and, in fact, to entire countries and regions.”