Show organizers from the U.S. National Business Aviation Association, which jointly promotes the EBACE show, came to Geneva flushed with success (but doubtless fatigued too) after the successful relaunch of the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE). The March 27-29 event in Shanghai was, by common consent, a resounding success–especially considering the many challenges that organizers faced in running a modern trade show in China’s main business city.
ABACE 2012 drew 156 exhibitors in a 43,000-sq-ft space provided by the Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Center at Hongqiao Airport. The static display was populated by some 27 aircraft and was overlooked by eight exhibitor pavilions occupied by companies too large to exhibit inside the main hangar. The show was sold out two months ahead of its opening and almost a quarter of exhibitors were companies from Asia–significant in an industry still dominated by Western manufacturers and service providers.
The new-look show, which had been suspended since it was last staged in Hong Kong back in 2008, also attracted 6,375 visitors. By way of comparison, Europe’s first EBACE show held in Geneva, Switzerland, back in 2001 drew 3,600 visitors and almost 200 exhibitors.
“ABACE 2012 met all of our estimates and expectations, as well as those of exhibitors and attendees,” said Ed Bolen, president and CEO of NBAA, which staged the show in partnership with the Shanghai Airport Authority, the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) and the Shanghai Exhibition Center.
For NBAA and AsBAA, ABACE was a prime opportunity to engage with the Chinese aviation officials whose support and understanding is needed to allow business aviation to fulfill its enormous potential in China. The sense of urgency for effective lobbying was reflected in the eve-of-show announcement the formation of the new China Business Jet Shanghai Alliance by the country’s leading aircraft finance provider Minsheng Financial Leasing Co. Importantly, the new body is led by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and is the first official industry organization in the People’s Republic to include the 17 major business aircraft manufacturers–the only exceptions, for now, being Airbus and Boeing, whose attorneys voice last-minute concerns about anti-trust implications. Also represented in the Alliance are leading Chinese operators Capital Airlines, China Eastern, Donghai Jet, Nanshan Jet, Wing-on Travel, Zhuhai Helicopter and First Mandarin Business Aviation.
Under the auspices of the so-called Shanghai Declaration, government officials and Alliance members agreed to work together to establish “a standard code of conduct to promote a sound and orderly development of the [business aviation] market.” They also committed themselves to addressing barriers to growth, such as the need to open up restricted upper airspace to business aircraft, reducing taxes and using international expertise to create a better operating environment. Other objectives include encouraging development of better facilities in China for training, maintenance and ground handling.
Chinese government support for the ABACE agenda was confirmed by the participation of CAAC deputy administrator Xia Xinghua, who told the show’s opening general session that the business aviation industry is finally being cleared for takeoff in China. “By the end of the current 12-year plan we expect there will be 30 [aircraft] management companies in China and more than 280 new airports, 40 of which would be dedicated business aviation airfields,” he said.
Addressing the same group, John Porcari, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, predicted that the wider Asian business aviation sector will surpass that of Europe by 2030. “It falls on us [Western regulators and companies] to develop regulatory mechanisms to promote responsible growth,” he acknowledged.
NBAA (Stand 1813) and the Shanghai Airport Authority have signed an agreement that will keep the ABACE show in Shanghai for the next four years through 2016. Dates for the 2013 edition have been set for April 16-18 next year, which should bode well for somewhat more temperate weather than experienced by 2012 visitors.