The Asian Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (ABACE) returns this month after a three-year absence from the air-show circuit. The annual event started life in 2004, but was mothballed four years later when the financial meltdown struck. "Our decision to cancel the show was driven by the industry in general and the manufacturers in particular, who were badly hit by the economic downturn," says Dan Hubbard, vice president of communications for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), which is co-hosting the show with the Asian Business Aviation Association.
ABACE now has a permanent base at Hawker Pacific's service centre in Shanghai
"Likewise it was [the airframers'] decision to put the show back on the calendar this year - from 27 to 29 March," he adds.
Hubbard attributes this turnaround to the enormous potential for the business aviation industry within Asia.
Here, the population, economic activity and need for transportation to cover the distances between business locations - in some cases, where no practical transportation alternative exists - are immense, Hubbard says. But the Asian business aviation market is still at the beginning of its evolution, he adds.
ABACE, too, is still in its infancy, with only four shows to its name. However, the event now has a permanent base - for the next five years at least - at the new Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Service Centre at the city's Hongqiao International Airport. "It is an ideal venue with a large exhibition area, conference rooms - which will house a host of educational sessions and seminars - and a ramp to house the show's static aircraft display," says Hubbard.
Many Asian cities competed to host ABACE, he says, but Shanghai was selected due to its size and reputation as a business capital in one of the largest countries and economies in the world. "The venue's co-owner, Shanghai Airport Authority, made it clear that they see ABACE as integral to the growth of Asia's business community in the coming years. They are keen to grow the airport to accommodate the expected growth in business aircraft traffic."
Likewise, the Chinese government is committed to promoting and fostering business and general aviation. It recently issued its Twelfth Five-Year Plan, in which it called for major investment in aviation, covering air traffic control as well as airport expansion and development.
ABACE says it aims to serve Asia's expanding business aviation community - from owners and users to suppliers and regulators - and to create a catalyst for further growth in the region.
Asia's massive appeal to the global business aviation community is illustrated by the rapid take-up of exhibition space. "We added a new pavilion to accommodate the overflow and even that was sold out by the end of January," says Hubbard. The static park has attracted 30 aircraft and helicopters and around 6,000 visitors are expected to pass through the doors during the three-day event.