In a spirited opening session, EBACE co-hosts and local dignitaries welcomed show attendees on Tuesday and cheered business aviation’s renewed vigor in Europe.
“EBACE is a time the industry comes together to celebrate the innovative spirit and inherent value that EBAA promotes not just at EBACE, but throughout the year,” said EBAA chairman Juergen Wiese. He cited EBAA’s recent report that found the sector is responsible for creating 374,000 direct or indirect jobs in Europe as one example of that value, and noted Europe has seen 16 consecutive months of growth in business aviation traffic.
Meanwhile, a recent EBAA survey of more than 2,000 young Europeans “told us business aviation is desirable, not because of status and luxury, but because of the freedom and flexibility it offers.” Moreover, “They believe in the future sustainable personal air transport will drastically change society as we know it,” Wiese said.
Ed Bolen, president and CEO of NBAA, co-host of the show, noted more than 100 new exhibitors are on the exhibition floor this year and a sold-out static display.
André Schneider, CEO of Genève Aéroport, said the facility is “pleased to host this very important event,” and reported the airport saw a 6 percent increase in business aviation operations last year, “substantially above the growth of civil aircraft,” and this year an increase of 10 percent thus far.
Noting the commitment to sustainable alternative jet fuel EBAA, NBAA and other industry organizations declared the previous day, Schneider announced the airport “will introduce a biofuel strategy” that will include adding 1 percent of biofuel to all jet fuel purchases, making Geneva “the first airport offering that.”
Yet challenges to that future remain, and Weise urged attendees to “collectively and proactively tell our story to buyers, regulators, and the next generation of young people who will help determine the future in years to come.”
Wiese also paid homage to Serge Dassault, the legendary aviation innovator who passed away on Monday, and to whom EBACE 2018 has been dedicated.
Keynote speaker Yves Rossy, aka Jetman, proved that spirit of innovation lives on. The former fighter pilot and airline captain recounted his 25-year quest for “complexly free” human flight, instead of flying within a machine.
He found something like that sensation when he began parachuting, but “unfortunately, the vector is like that,” he said, pointing straight down. Rossy began experimenting with sky surfing, which he found “not very effective, but really fun,” and from there began developing wings, his first milestone coming with an inflatable pair and a strong harness to strap into. “For the first time I was really flying, a glide ratio of four: one meter down, four forward." He flew across Lake Geneva wearing the wings. “But birds are not only going down – they stay in the air,” he said. “So I needed a little push to stay in the air.”
That led to attaching turbine engines developed for model aircraft to the wing, culminating in a disastrous flight that destroyed the wing and led him to abandon its development. But encouraged by friends he returned to his quest, and ultimately achieved his goal.
Development of his wing is not over. “We’re now using a helicopter to start, so we are not autonomous,” Rossy said. He is now working on a wing capable of self-launching from the ground.
Today Rossy imagines a future where “you strap a wing on, start your engines,” and gambol amidst the clouds or use it for personal travel. “It could become a good business,” he surmised, “So if someone’s interested in being part of that adventure in the future…”