As NBAA kicks off this year’s annual convention here in Las Vegas, preparations are well underway for next year’s Asian Business Conference and Exhibition (ABACE), to be held April 15-17 at the Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Centre (SHPBASC), which has been its home since the show’s rebirth in 2011.
Just as attendance swelled by more than 2,000 from that first show to last year’s, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen expects a similar boost for next year’s meeting. “This is a particularly important event with the participation from the government, with the intense media focus and with the all of the CEOs from every international business aviation company there, it really is a critical forum in so many ways, certainly putting buyers and sellers together but beyond that as well.”
In conjunction with this year’s Shanghai show, NBAA hosted the first ever CAAC business aviation symposium, which gave the association an opportunity to speak with government officials and discuss their plans for growth in the region. Bolen pointed to the “baby steps” the show has helped the industry take in China, breaking new ground with the first-ever landing of a turboprop aircraft at Hongqiao Airport in 2011 in honor of the show and last year’s first landing of a civil helicopter, which participated in the static display at the airport.
“The industry is doing extremely well in China,” said Carey Matthews, general manager of SHPBASC, which proves ground-handling services at both of Shanghai’s international airports. “We are up close to 17 percent over the last year in total number of operations between Hongqiao and Pudong airports.” Matthews noted that while international traffic has been flat, the bulk of those people who are flying right now are domestic operators, which he sees as encouraging as it points to local buyers using their aircraft increasingly for business operations. “What’s been, I think, the great success story for China’s business aviation is that the market is actually developing to do what business aviation is supposed to do,” he said.
As the first dedicated FBO/MRO in the region, SHPBASC has given a degree of confidence to users that there is an ability to support business aircraft in China. Earlier this year, the facility received FAA approval as a foreign repair station, and it just received designation from Cessna as an authorized service center. The FBO had previously earned that approval from Bombardier, Dassault and Beechcraft. The facility also recently earned approval from the Chinese government as a flight-planning agency, meaning it can now file flight plans for approval, something that is especially useful to customers looking to get into Beijing’s crowded airspace.
In preparation for next year’s ABACE, Hawker Pacific is making modifications to expand the available space of its 43,056-sq-ft hangar, allowing it to accommodate another 12 exhibitors. The company expects to begin construction next year of a second, larger hangar.