With the rapid development of China’s economy and accumulation of personal wealth, traditional transportation means such as civil airliners and high-speed railways are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of high-end business people. Business and private aviation is increasingly emerging as an option for the wealthy, who are now having to decide on how best to access this mode of transportation.
With the number of business jets in China steadily increasing, the country is facing a shortage of qualified pilots, with virtually all of those attending its flight academies and training schools destined for the commercial aviation sector. Operators in China use a ratio of five pilots for every business jet in operation, according to Christopher Jackson, co-founder and executive director of China-based aviation consultancy Jackson Rosenberg, who sees a need for hundreds of additional business jet pilots in the short to medium term.
Gulfstream Aerospace has been making major investments of its own to boost customer support in China. In November 2012 the U.S. manufacturer opened the country’s first factory-owned business jet service center at Beijing Capital International Airport.
The second-annual Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE) kicks off next week at the Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Centre FBO at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport in China, and it promises to play a vital role in stimulating and facilitating growth in the adoption of business aircraft as productivity tools in the region.
Production of Cessna Aircraft’s new Citation Latitude is on schedule, and the company expects that full airframes will be on the manufacturing lines by year-end. The midsize business jet is scheduled to fly in the first quarter of next year. The Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer has already started building test articles, and has moved from engineering, analysis and modeling to cutting metal. Meanwhile, Cessna started a 19-city tour in the U.S. last week that showcases a Citation Latitude cabin mockup.
JA Air Center in Sugar Grove, Ill., opened its new completion and refurbishment shop in January and, according to sales director Rodd Caldwell, “business is picking up and the full crew of six has been busy over the past year, with a steady backlog of about two months.”
The center is focusing on interior work from the King Air through super-midsize jets. Currently in the shop are a Cessna 210, Learjet 40 and Challenger 300, “all of them in for partial cabin refurbishment.”
J.P. Morgan Aerospace & Defense’s April Business Jet Monthly report sees “little evidence that new jet demand is gathering momentum” and “we are not expecting a particularly strong Q1.”
Factors contributing to the lack of demand include elevated inventory of younger jets, prices of used jets still declining and flight ops that are “barely growing in the U.S. and shrinking in Europe.”
Embraer’s first Phenom 300 twinjet manufactured in the U.S. and delivered to a buyer left the company’s Melbourne, Fla. facility on March 29. The identity of the jet’s buyer was not disclosed. “This is a major milestone for Embraer Executive Jets and proves the maturity of our assembly facilities,” said Phil Krull, managing director of Melbourne assembly for Embraer Executive Jets. “We have quickened the manufacturing pace and will be able to accommodate a more demanding schedule.”
Bedford, Mass.-based Jet Advisors is offering a new tool, dubbed the Private Jet Index, to support the aircraft-selection process by ranking and statistically scoring more than 30 parameters. Company president Kevin O’Leary said the patent-pending index also considers the needs and wants of each individual buyer and then weighs the aircraft scores accordingly.
An Embraer Phenom 300 set three speed records for its class when it flew from Embraer Executive Jets’ headquarters at Melbourne (Fla.) International Airport (MLB) to Daugherty Field in Long Beach, Calif., with only one fuel stop. On the first leg, the twinjet flew the 1,380-nm route to El Paso (Tex.) International Airport in four hours, 16 minutes and 33 seconds. After a 27-minute fuel stop, it proceeded to Long Beach, completing the 607-nm leg in one hour, 55 minutes and 20 seconds.