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The 2015 Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE 2015), held in Shanghai, China, form April 14 to 16, is said to be the strongest edition in its 10-year history. “It was a big and exciting week. ABACE once again put China at centre stage of the Asian and global business aviation community, and as we celebrated the show’s 10th year, it is clear that a high-water mark has been reached, not only for ABACE, but for business aviation in China and across Asia," said the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen.
ABACE, jointly hosted each year by NBAA and the SAA, in co-ordination with the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA), will be held from April 12 to 14 next year.
When ABACE started in 2005, there were about a dozen aircraft on display and by 2015, the number had more than tripled to 38 aircraft on static display. The display incorporated the full spectrum of business aircraft, from pistons through intercontinental jets, as well as helicopters. The event had 183 exhibitors, covering the largest footprint in the history of ABACE, and representing a five-fold increase over the 30 exhibitors at the first edition of ABACE and importantly over 40 per cent of the exhibitors were from Asia. Over 40 countries from Asia and beyond participated.
The event also featured a China Business Aviation Development Symposium, held on the event’s opening day, which included CAAC officials, as well as two top diplomats: Max Baucus, the US ambassador to The People’s Republic of China, and Guy Saint-Jaques, the Canadian ambassador to The People’s Republic of China. Bolen added that the educational content provided at the show - which included both a regional and global focus - proved as valuable as ever: The A Safety Workshop had an increase in attendance over last year’s session, with dozens of attendees hearing perspectives from operators in the region, who highlighted the value of safety management and safety culture.
“By any measure, ABACE 2015 was the best one yet, and it is clear that business aviation has not only become established in the region, but is flourishing,” Bolen said. “Exhibitors and attendees report that the show was a highly successful and valuable event, and the collaboration among the show organizers is as strong as ever. We thank everyone who participated in ABACE, and we look forward to returning to Shanghai next year.”
At the show, Asian Sky Group (ASG) released a report on the business jet market. As per the report, greater China region had a growth of 15.5 per cent, compared with a whopping 49.8 per cent in 2012 and 42.3 per cent in 2011. There has been a slowdown. China was home to 439 of Asia’s 744 business jets at the end of last year, with 297 on the mainland and 114 in Hong Kong, a net addition of 59 jets in 2013. The report said that the number of business jets in the Asia Pacific grew 15 per cent to 647 aircraft in 2014, but that 2015 will be a tough year for the region’s biggest market, China.
So at ABACE, there were concerns. The Deputy Administrator of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) Wang Zhiqing underscored that China was now looking at business aviation from an utility point of view rather than luxury. The buyers of business jets on the mainland have always been private companies rather than state-owned enterprises, the latter utilising the services of the former. This demand, however, got erased as President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign commenced. The government is no longer the largest charterer.
Gulfstream and Bombardier with their large-cabin models dominated the market. Gulfstream’s G550 and G450, Bombardier Global 6000 and Dassault Falcon 7X have been popular models in the mainland region. Deer Jet which first started charter service on the mainland has 83 jets - 63 are client-owned. There is a trend to acquire aircraft which is ‘mission-specific’. Asian Sky’s data shows all manufacturers, with the exception of Boeing and Embraer which had small market shares, delivered more aircraft into China last year than in 2013.
Jackie Chan gets Legacy 500
Embraer Executive Jets debuted Legacy 500 midsize jet at ABACE and the customer was none other than their brand ambassador Jackie Chan who was present at the show. Jackie Chan was also the first customer of the Legacy 650 in China. Embraer also showcased its ultra-large Lineage 1000E and the large Legacy 650. Since its first executive jet in 2004 in China, Embraer has picked up 35 firm orders and five options for executive jets of which 27 have been delivered.
Bell bags five orders
Bell helicopter, a Textron Inc., company, continues to grow its presence in China with the announcement of letters of intent to purchase five aircraft. “We were proud to be a major rotorcraft attraction at ABACE. While at the show, we met with many current and potential customers and provided updates on the capabilities our helicopters can deliver as China’s air space restrictions continue to relax,” said Chris Jaran, Vice President of commercial sales and marketing for Bell Helicopter in China.
Bell Helicopter held signings for five new aircraft to customers in China: 1) Guangxi Zhanzhuo General Aviation signed for one Bell 407GXP, the first of its type to be sold in China, to be used for low altitude tourism in Guilin, Guangxi Province.; 2) Nanjing Ruoer General Aviation signed a letter of intent to purchase two Bell 505 Jet Ranger X helicopters to be used for flight training; and 3) Jiangsu Shenghao also signed a letter of intent to purchase two Bell 505 helicopters to be used in for flight training and low altitude tourism.
Light and very light size grows
The ASG report said that light and very light size categories of aircraft saw small 2014 net growth as the lower airspace in China has opened up. The medium size category has seen a decline in growth. ASG states that this year lessors have about 30 aircraft which are yet to find customers.
“Between the five main Chinese business jet leasing companies, there exists roughly 30 new aircraft either delivered and unsold or due to be delivered in 2015 hanging over the market. These new aircraft will in particular present significant market challenges to Gulfstream and Bombardier throughout the year as both these OEMs and leasing companies compete for the same base of dwindling potential buyers.”