Business aviation took a stage at last month’s Aero Friedrichshafen, as leaders highlighted the importance of the sector in Europe and explored challenges that continue to face the industry. The German Business Aviation Association (GBAA), in collaboration with Aero Friedrichshafen organizers, hosted a special business aviation conference for the first time during the general aviation show held annually in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
“Business aviation is one of the main areas of general aviation, which is why it will also be a key topic at Aero Friedrichshafen,” organizers said in announcing the inaugural business aviation conference. They noted the worldwide business aircraft fleet comprises more than 22,000 jets and an additional 15,000 turboprop and piston aircraft. “Over the past 20 years, it has developed into an engine of innovation benefiting other aviation sectors,” the organizers added.
For the GBAA, this conference was of particular importance because Germany is home to Europe’s largest business aviation fleet, with 687 registered aircraft, and hosts the third most movements (behind France and the UK) with 186,627 last year.
Bernhard Fragner, CEO of GlobeAir (Booth C21) underscored the time savings that can be gained through private flying, illustrating the time it would take three people on business travel from Munich to Valencia. Fragner emphasized that the perception of business aviation as a venue for only the wealthy must be dispelled. Fragner also highlighted other challenges, including a lack of talent and digitization.
Kai Odenthal of FTI Engineering Network and Atlas Air Service CTO Gregor Bremer provided an overview of ADS-B equipage and mandates, while Eva Kluge, director of sales and business development for Air Alliance Medflight, provided an overview of the air ambulance role, as well as opportunities to introduce private aviation to younger people.
GBAA CEO Andreas Mundsinger discussed results of a study on decentralized aviation in Germany. The German population is spread relatively broadly, but the airfield infrastructure is not optimally used, Mundsinger said. Business aviation can access greater areas than commercial airports and significantly reduces time, he said. A panel discussion further explored the lack of young workers and the image of business aviation in the labor market.
At a separate session held during Aero Friedrichshafen on the state of the market, Atlas Air Service CEO Nicolas von Mende said the European business aviation market is experiencing modest growth, but more so in Germany. But even weak growth is an improvement with a market that had zero growth just a few years ago. He called 2018 a good year, noting his own firm sold 18 aircraft last year.
Kyle Martin, director of European regulatory affairs for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), pointed to GAMA’s recent report finding delivery activity up across all general and business aviation categories and added that the association is positive about the future. While Europe has lagged behind the U.S. market, he added there is untapped growth capacity. The holdup, Martin said, is a perception issue. Europe still does not view business and general aviation as a means to get between two points, but rather as a recreational outlet or luxury.