EBACE retrospective: 2001-2004

 - May 4, 2010, 11:17 AM

Today it’s hard to believe but in 2001 when the new European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) was launched not everyone was convinced it would be a success. Now, with the 10th annual event being held this week, EBACE has established itself as the undisputed gathering place for Europe’s business aviation community and indeed for the wider global industry. Here AIN reflects on
the first four years of EBACE conventions and tomorrow’s edition of EBACE Convention News will move on to the subsequent five shows.

Before EBACE was born, the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) had held its annual conferences on a far more modest scale, generally in a hotel close to its Brussels headquarters. It took a joint venture with a far more seasoned show organizer, the U.S. National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), to get EBACE up and running and the partners haven’t looked back since.

At its inception, EBACE began in April 2001 with organizers praying to attract more than the 200 to 300 people who usually populated EBAA annual meetings. It was a giant leap of faith to go from a comfortable, but modestly dimensioned country hotel in Belgium to the vast PalExpo center here in Geneva. Their prayers were answered when more than 3,600 people and nearly 200 exhibitors attended.

In those days, Europe’s business aviation fleet remained stubbornly at about 2,000 aircraft, EBAA president Brian Humphries told EBACE 2001, concluding that “business aviation is established in Europe, but its full potential has not been realized.” Challenges included airport and airspace access, unrecognized business aircraft benefits and image issues.

The only major order news that year covered 25 Dassault Falcon 2000EXs (plus options on 25 more) for the NetJets fractional ownership program, but Dassault withheld details of its FN-X all-new aircraft study (which was eventually to see the light of day as the Falcon 7X). Airbus and Boeing Business Jets planned to reveal orders only at the NBAA convention later that year in the U.S. (although that event was to be canceled following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.).

Gulfstream announced that European certification for the GV was expected in early 2002, after additional flight testing. The planned GV-SP was expected to fly by year’s end. Twelve months after Rolls-Royce had said upgraded Tay engines would power 150 examples of the next generation of the GIV (and with another supplier telling EBACE Convention News it was developing systems for the “GVI”), Gulfstream kept its powder dry. It declined also to comment on parent company General Dynamics’ rumored plan to acquire Galaxy Aerospace, which was confirmed within two weeks.

Raytheon Aircraft was preparing to fly the Hawker Horizon, its biggest aircraft to date (now called the Hawker 4000), for which it claimed 100 orders, and would deliver the first Premier I a month later. The Sino Swearingen SJ30 light jet had just gained $100 million Taiwanese sponsorship needed to complete certification.

Brazil’s new Embraer Legacy– three weeks into its flight-test program–would not be seen publicly until the NBAA Convention. Fairchild Dornier showed a corporate 328JET, which it offered with 14-seat business and 32-seat shuttle interiors.
Boeing Business Jets displayed a company-owned demonstrator BBJ, for which it had almost 80 orders. Airbus showed a Corporate Jet fuselage mockup after a customer’s example had been chartered; 26 ACJs had been ordered.

Exhibitors and visitors alike were generally pleased with the first event. Crowds were sometimes thin on the ground, but EBACE 2001 had clearly scored a hit with the proximity of its static display.

2002

For EBACE 2002, the event’s conference sessions content was restructured so they ran in parallel with the exhibition. Again, the show did not prompt big order announcements, but did receive plaudits for the quality of visitors (that is, the much sought-after high-net-worth individuals). Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) said that, compared with the NBAA convention, where most visitors were pilots, EBACE 2002 offered “more principals with the ability to write a check.”

The 2002 event saw a 33-percent increase in attendance to just over 4,800, while exhibitors grew in number by 15 percent to almost 220. The 35 aircraft displayed represented an increase of four, with visitors finding the close proximity of the static display area a valued asset. An EBACE Convention News straw poll found 95 percent of respondents liking the show, happy with the location and planning to return. Rolls-Royce needed no arm-twisting: “EBACE, preferably in Geneva, looks set to become the [region’s] key business aviation show,” a spokesman said.

Embraer showed a fully finished Legacy in Europe for the first time as it prepared to receive U.S. and European certification and to deliver the region’s first example. Likewise, Gulfstream GV European approval was expected within months, but not

FAA approval of the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 jet, which had been deferred to late 2003, with first delivery expected in early 2004.

Raytheon Aircraft claimed its Premier I was the only aircraft with people queuing to inspect it. Dassault’s new Falcon 2000EX, of which 30 had reportedly been ordered, had logged 180 flight-test hours. Some 41 letters of intent were held for the developing Falcon 7X and the French airframer planned to deliver 73 Falcons that year.

Cessna showed the upgraded Citation X, with more powerful, 6,764-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce AE3007C-1 engines, which permitted a 400-pound mtow increase to 36,100 pounds. Backlog value had declined one third to about $4 billion in the preceding 18 months and was expected to drop to $3.5 billion by year-end as the recession continued.

Airbus displayed two ACJs and had orders for 30-plus units, 14 of which had been delivered. Two Boeing Business Jets were for sale at EBACE 2002, with new orders for the program totaling 83 aircraft.

Pilatus had seen a sharp decline in North American demand in late 2001 and total new orders were 54 percent down on 2000. Piaggio Aero Industries reported 50 P180 Avantis in service–29 in Europe and 21 in North America.

Bombardier’s Global Express had just received Japanese type approval and had been cleared in 24 European countries. Europe was now Bombardier’s primary target, the company having almost doubled its regional market share in the previous five years, with about 125 sales.

2003

Attendance at EBACE 2003 approached 6,000, up almost a quarter, while exhibitor numbers grew 10 percent to almost 250. Then EBAA president Fernand François reported a two-year, 15-percent increase in Europe’s business aircraft fleet to 2,300, while typical annual utilization per aircraft had grown from 400 hours to between 700 and 1,000 hours since 1998. The show perhaps came of age in 2003 when, reacting to the worldwide recession, Cessna, Gulfstream and Raytheon all preferred the regional event to the global Paris airshow.

Two new aircraft types made full debuts in Geneva: the Gulfstream 550 and Raytheon’s Beechjet 400A-derived Hawker 400XP, supported by the first non-North American appearance of the Bombardier Challenger 300 (née Continental). The Hawker 400XP sported a 200-pound mtow increase and up to nine seats. Raytheon had just shelved the Hawker 450 as being “cost prohibitive” due to the economy.
At that point, Bombardier had orders for 150 Challenger 300s–15 from European operators–and Canadian certification was imminent. The Learjet 45XR program
was two-thirds complete, with a new cabin interior close to approval. Early operators would be offered Honeywell’s TFE731-20BR engine as a retrofit. The Learjet 40 derivative was set to enter service in early 2004.

Boeing Business Jets reported 61 BBJs flying with 41 operators, but had inventory aircraft “awaiting sale.” Previously discussed plans for a 757- or 767-based BBJ3 were unlikely to reach fruition, if only because Boeing’s partnership with General Electric stipulated that BBJs be GE-powered.

Dassault marked the 40th anniversary of the Falcon’s first flight and was studying a possible supersonic business jet (SSBJ) with Boeing and Sukhoi. A Dassault SSBJ was expected to cost $60 million to $80 million and would take 10 years to certify from launch. A 10-foot model of the next Falcon, the 7X, was being prepared for low-speed wind-tunnel testing.

Cessna Citation Mustang orders stood at 330, with the airplane still over a year from scheduled first flight. Wind-tunnel testing had led to the possibility of increased wing sweep.
 

2004

Slow economic recovery had begun by the time Dassault unveiled the tri-jet Falcon 900DX at EBACE 2004. Attendance neared 6,500 (up by 8.4 percent), while exhibitor numbers essentially matched those in 2003. The show had grown by 56 percent since it began in 2001. Three dozen turbine business aircraft were displayed.

Regulations and the environment dominated the agenda in general conference sessions, along with concerns about security- and congestion-inspired access issues. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) had replaced the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) as rule-maker, charged with developing (initially) European Union (EU) airworthiness and environmental regulations before tackling flight operations and flight-crew licensing and, possibly, airports and ATC. The not-so-subtle change was that of political subsidiarity, whereby JAA matters were interpreted nationally, gave way to EU law.

An NBAA/EBAA working group on business aircraft operations planned to define aircraft and operations before reviewing existing rules and harmonization options. It then would consider deficiencies and omissions in the existing regulations.
The Cessna Citation Sovereign made its first non-U.S. appearance at the 2004 show, with the manufacturer claiming it was “ideally suited to [meet] European operators’ needs,” with range from Geneva to “anywhere in Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.”

Bombardier’s promotions included “Transatlantic Express,” a flat-fee (for the first nine hours) transatlantic charter plan flying 10 Global Expresses to and from nine airports in the London area and in Paris to six Greater New York points. There were no positioning charges for the service, which would include up to two nights’ stay, complimentary limousine, enhanced security and immigration formalities, and fresh meals at passengers’ convenience. With the same target market in mind, PrivatAir and partner Design Investment unveiled a 16-seat Airbus Corporate Jet/Boeing Business Jet interior that could be flown on transatlantic round-trips for around $16,000 per passenger.

Boeing Business Jets thought negative economic trends had probably reversed, as it reported that sales had improved in the preceding eight to 12 months after a prolonged downturn. Deals were being negotiated for four aircraft (including two BBJ2s) destined for 2005 delivery.

The 757-based BBJ3 had been dropped, following lack of demand and cessation of new-aircraft production. Flying to EBACE 2004, the BBJ demonstrator became the first business jet to cross the North Atlantic using future air navigation system (FANS) technology to communicate.

At the same time, Airbus was mulling a corporate A380: “We are talking about 600 square meters [6,450 square feet] of cabin; completion could be more expensive than the aircraft [then nominally about $275 million],” explained a spokesman. It expected its double-decker to capture a major share of the 100-aircraft, 10-year market seen for government and head-of-state aircraft.

Embraer’s Legacy sported a new three-zone interior offering flexible layouts, plus a larger galley, roomier rear lavatory and optional forward lavatory. Uprated Rolls-Royce AE3007 engines provided an eight-passenger, 3,250-nm range aircraft approved to operate at 8,500-foot-altitude airports. Fourteen of the 36 Legacys delivered were flying in Europe and the Middle East.

Eclipse led the very light jet contingent with a new pilot-training curriculum, while Safire Aircraft conceded it would need $60 million to certify its own VLJ design. Shortly afterward it suspended operations while awaiting expected financing. Ironically, as business aviation entered a boom period Safire would not be the last VLJ to fail to reach the runway.