If there’s anything revealed at the ABACE 2015 show this week in Shanghai, it was that the austerity heralded in a year ago by the Chinese government only changed the way the business aviation sector is behaving outwardly, whereas the underlying excitement, potential and activity is muted by a drop, perhaps temporary, in charter demand and aircraft deliveries. However businesses in Greater China are becoming increasingly aware of the value of business aircraft as tools, something that might help reshape the image of these aircraft from luxury toys to workhorses that save time and add value for corporations.
While business aircraft order announcements were lacking this week in Shanghai, there have been an increasing number of joint ventures and previously announced ventures coming to fruition. The next few years should see these take root and with them the entire industry will start to bloom on a broader basis.
And as the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) starts to find its footing, it is to be expected that the industry will find a single voice on various issues that create obstacles to development.
Charlie Mularski, the new chairman of AsBAA (as of this week), told AIN, “The anti-corruption cloud [in China] is really targeting high end luxury items and sadly business aircraft fall into that. But the point is that it is not a luxury item it’s a tool–so how can we persuade the authorities and the public of this?” He recognized that there had been an impact on orders and deliveries in China, but said AsBAA is determined to have its own “No Plane, No Gain” drive–“but the reason for it here is to fight the stigma.”
Another question then is whether ABACE itself, as the main annual forum and showcase for business aviation in China and the wider Asia Pacific region, can in fact encompass the whole region and be less China-centric.
While the People’s Republic represents an incredible engine for driving industry growth, it will be as a wider region that real progress is made. Certainly, international entities coming to ABACE are expending a lot of time and effort coming to the key “Asian” business aviation event, and want to be able to meet and interact with representatives of the business aviation sector from all over the world, where they have interests in the Asia Pacific.
There is no doubt, however, that China will remain the core fascination for most.