This year’s ABACE occupies the largest footprint in the show’s history, according to Ed Bolen, president and CEO of show co-organizer, the U.S. National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). Speaking at the welcoming press conference on Monday in Shanghai, Bolen noted the increased pavilion space housing more than 160 exhibitors, with better than 40 percent of them representing Asian companies.
As well, said Bolen, the more than 30 aircraft on exhibit in the static display range from piston engine singles to intercontinental corporate jets, to helicopters, demonstrating the wide diversity of business aircraft.
When ABACE in its new format began at Hongqiao Airport in 2012, the static display was occupied solely by large cabin business jets, but that has changed over the years. “Some of the reasons that this evolution has taken place from the large down to the smaller and much more diverse is because of the policies that have been put in place by China and throughout the region,” said Bolen.
“What we have seen is a number of airports have been built throughout the country, policies that provide access to the airspace have been liberalized, and more and more there is an understanding of the tremendous benefits this industry brings in terms of jobs and economic development,” he said.
“It’s exciting to see how this show has grown and evolved between our first edition in 2012 and today in 2016,” Bolen continued. “Literally business aviation in China and throughout the region is evolving, it’s growing, it’s changing, it’s becoming more multi-dimensional.”
This evolution comes at an important time for China, said Bolen, adding that the first ABACE was held in the very early stages of the 12th Five Year Plan, which referenced general aviation. “Today we meet here just as the 13th Five Year Plan is announced, and once again we see that it strongly supports general aviation in China,” he told the audience.
General aviation is becoming an important focus for Chinese economic development, added Lu Xun, deputy general manager of the Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Centre, which has hosted the show for the past five years at Hongqiao International Airport. “It is expected that by the end of the 13th Five Year Plan there will be over 500 airports for general aviation, and there will be over 5,000 aircraft,” he said, adding annual flight operations should reach two million hours–with a total economic value of one trillion RMB.
Lu said that many FBOs are currently under construction across China but he cautioned those airports to evaluate their business plans closely to ensure they will be able to make ends meet.
Once again the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) will bring its student outreach initiative to the show, sponsoring nearly 200 local university students here on Thursday. “The goal is to inspire this new generation of students and professionals about business aviation by understanding the value that this great industry brings to them and how they can create careers for life,” said AsBAA chairman Charles Mularski.