One sector of the recession-hit business aviation industry is bucking the trend by declaring 2009 to be shaping up as one of the best ever.
Demand for head-of-state "VVIP" widebody airliners continues to grow unabated, and suppliers to the top end of the completions market were in buoyant mood at the show. The head-of-state market is almost completely insulated from the aircraft-financing squeeze that has had such a detrimental impact on the spending power of high net-worth individuals. Most government-backed VVIP projects were budgeted for several years ago and are proceeding as planned.
"The market is better than I've seen in 25 years," says Gore Design Completions chief executive Jerry Gore. GDC has won the contract to complete a pair of A340-500s for a Middle Eastern head of state, and will take delivery of the green aircraft in late 2010 and early 2011, respectively.
Under separate contracts, GDC is preparing to hand over another VIP A340-500 to a Middle East customer next month, and will begin work on an A340-200 later this year.
The company has previously won contracts to complete a Boeing 777 and six 767s, as well as a 757, an A320 and several 737s.
Gore says he does not expect to bid for any A380 completions however, given the limited number of sales opportunities and the fact that each project is likely to require "about one million man hours" to complete.
Lufthansa Technik VIP and Executive Jet Solutions is forecasting a market for between three and five Airbus A380 completions. It says it has a slot available for one of these at the end of 2013, going into 2014 if a customer were to book it soon.
But because demand for A330/A340 completions is strong it cannot hold the slot for long, says the company's senior vice-president Walter Heerdt.
New Zealand start-up Altitude Aerospace Interiors launched its green VIP narrowbody and widebody aircraft completions business at NBAA, where it sought to raise its profile within the US and European-dominated interiors industry.
"There is a strong market for top-end completions and the major players in the USA and Europe have long backlogs," says Altitude's head of commercial VIP aircraft Matthew Woollaston.
"We are here to try to offset the tyranny of distance," he adds. "Although our company is based in New Zealand, this should not be a barrier to us completing an aircraft for a customer."
The Air New Zealand-owned company is the only completions outfit in the southern hemisphere and has been concentrating since operations began a year ago solely on refurbishment, "but we are now ready to take on green aircraft", Woollaston says.
Altitude will only focus on BBJ-size aircraft upwards, including the Boeing 787-9 twinjet, for which Air New Zealand is a launch customer.