Business aviation consultant Brian Foley, president of Brian Foley Associates, used an intriguing metaphor to explain the issues effecting Chinese business aviation: “Imagine if there was a 22-percent tariff on imported cars, drivers had to ask permission to drive a day in advance and they could drive only to specified cities via a suboptimal route with few services. Driving to a city not on the approved list would require a ‘navigator’ to ride along.”
Boeing Business Jets (Chalet 140) is pulling double duty here at ABACE 2013, showcasing the BBJ, the VIP version of the Seattle-based airframer’s 737 airliner, while simultaneously celebrating the 40th year of Boeing commercial sales in China and the delivery of the 1,000th Boeing airliner to the market, a 737-800 purchased by China Eastern Airlines.
While already known as Asia’s biggest business jet leasing firm, Minsheng Financial Leasing (MSFL) quietly launched its own aircraft-operating unit here at ABACE 2013. The company recently purchased Beijing-based charter provider Citic General Aviation, which operated a small fleet consisting of a Dassault Falcon 900DX, a Falcon 2000 and a Falcon 7X, and is in the process of rebranding it into a new subsidiary known as Minsheng International Jet.
Deer Jet launched the first fractional aircraft program in China yesterday here at ABACE 2013. It is now selling shares in a Gulfstream G450 and a G550, the latter of which is on display this week in the show’s static display.
“As the largest aircraft charter company in Asia and the first to do aircraft management in China, it is our responsibility to create a fractional share product here,” said Hu Lei, general manager of asset management for Deer Jet. “We also believe it is the right time to offer this type of program in China.”
The number of Gulfstream jets in the Asia Pacific region has more than tripled in the last six years, according to the Savannah, Georgia-based airframer. At its press conference here at ABACE on Monday, Larry Flynn, president of Gulfstream, noted that the number of the company’s large-cabin twinjets in the region has risen from 50 to 169 since 2007. Overall, the manufacturer, which claims 63 percent of the large-cabin market and 65 percent of the super-midsize market, has 208 aircraft based in the area, including 61 in mainland China and 45 in Hong Kong.
“All of the numbers are clear,” said Rolland Vincent, creator-director of JetNet iQ (Intelligence Quarterly) yesterday at ABACE 2013. “Asia is growing economically, and there is a lot of room indicated, from our surveys, for growth of business aviation in the Asia market.”
JetNet’s “State of the Market” briefing highlighted key trends and insights from JetNet iQ, the company’s premium business aviation forecasting and advisory service, which taps the insight of more than 4,500 business jet operators worldwide through detailed surveys.
Business aviation in China is a challenging occupation, but Hongkong Jet has tapped into a market where customers expect a high level of service and are willing to pay the extra cost. “Here in Asia, people don’t mind paying extra for better service,” said Chris Buchholz, CEO of Hongkong Jet, which is headquartered in Hong Kong and is the business aviation arm of China’s HNA Group. Hongkong Jet and sister company Deer Jet are exhibiting aircraft here on the static display.
With demand for business aircraft weak in traditional markets like the United States, many manufacturers are looking to China for growth.
Bangkok, Thailand-based charter group OrientSkys recently announced a new strategic business alliance with Beijing Airlines (formerly Air China Business Jet). Beijing Airlines, which Air China established in 2003 as the state-owned airline’s private charter arm, operates a Bombardier Challenger 605 and a Global Express XRS, as well as a Gulfstream G450 and a 28-seat Boeing Business Jet for charter.
Though business aviation is still young in China, the country has been quick to make clear its intention not just to be a consumer of imported business aircraft, but to be active as a manufacturer of them too. So far, partnerships with foreign airframers have been the main path to this goal, but now China’s Avic group has started work on its own design for what it calls the China New Generation Business Jet.