Conventions such as Europe's biggest aviation gathering always have two purposes: meet customers or show us new products. In the last few years at EBACE, there was less of the former and almost none of the latter. For the (ahem) wags churning out the event's three show dailies, which depend on almost exclusively on product announcements, EBACE was becoming uncomfortably like the stereotype of Geneva's many diplomatic missions: all talk and no action.
Not this year.
Maybe it's a sign the global economy is finally dragging themid-size and light jet sector out of its four-year funk. Maybe the industry could simply no longer remain idle. Or maybe the corporate marketers mistook EBACE for the Paris Air Show.
But this year EBACE was newsy, especially in the business jet sectors hardest hit by the economic crisis.
- Some may question if it's a case of too little, too late, but Bombardier finally moved to revive its franchise in the light and super-light jet sector. Packaged with new engines, avionics, winglets and interior features, the Learjet 70 and 75 will give the market a viable replacement for the Learjet 40 and 45 starting next years. Bombardier launched the programme in secret late last year, flying a Learjet 40 and 45 with the new Garmin G5000 avionics suite. The airframer's haste even as it continues to develop the all-composite, mid-size Learjet 85 may be telling. The unwritten rule in business jet product development is to launch new programmes when the market is bad, and have them ready when the market is good. The trick is to get the timing exactly right. All signs suggest the light and super-light segment remains in a slump, but the Bombardier 70 and 75 are among the first indications a turn-around is finally coming.
- Cessna probably wishes it had never canceled the short-lived Columbus project in 2009. The large cabin concept was scheduled to hit the market next year, as orders and deliveries in that segment of the market are expected to reach a new peak. But Cessna seems to have learned the right lesson. It's too late for Cessna to chase the lost glory of the Columbus, and it's wisely not bothering to try. Instead, Cessna is rebuilding its franchise in the super mid-size sector by launching the stretched Longitude less than a year after revealing the all-new Latitude. Along the way, it is granting the Snecma Silvercrest engine finally a launch partner and opening the door to the Garmin 5000 flight deck in another new product family. This time, Cessna isn't so likely to get cold feet.
- Entering EBACE less than two weeks after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection is never a good sign, but Hawker Beechcraft did more than put its best foot forward. If you believe executive vice president Shawn Vick, using bankruptcy to shed a $125 million payment on debt interest two investment house owners for three new ones is the best thing to happen to the firm since Hawker Siddely sold its manufacturing soul - and eventually half of its name -- to the Wichita-based firm. The new owners inherit a company with struggling commercial products, declining military sales and a decent aftermarket support business. It could be tempting for the new owners to recoup a nearly $3 billion investment by selling off the most valuable pieces and disposing of the rest. But time will tell.