EBACE in Geneva has grown a lot since its launch four years ago. Next week's show will feature a helicopters section as well as almost every major business aircraft

Europe will next week throw the wraps off the largest dedicated business aviation showcase outside North America. The allure of the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) shows no signs of fading as the annual gathering, co-hosted by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and US National Business Aviation Association and now in its fifth year, claims yet another record turnout.

The three-day event, to be held from 18-20 May, will showcase more than 250 companies from around the world covering nearly 17,000m2 (183,000ft2) at Geneva's Palexpo convention centre, says Brian Humphries, who became chief executive of Brussels-based EBAA in October 2004 after the retirement of Fernand François.

Strong demand

While the total represents a modest rise over last year's exhibitor turnout, the number is up 50% on the inaugural event in 2001. The strong demand for booths has now exhausted available space, confronting the organisers with the challenge of finding room for future growth. This year's event is also expected to smash visitor records, with around 7,000 delegates expected.

"As the first event of its kind in Europe dedicated solely to business aviation, EBACE has filled an important gap in a region where the business sector is now growing after the plateau of the 1990s," Humphries says. "It is not a show for tyre kickers. It has built a reputation for attracting serious buyers, who are there to do business."

The importance of EBACE within the budget-constrained business aviation community is symptomatic of the burgeoning demand from buyers and sellers alike for tailored shows. Their popularity has soared at the expense of the major international biannual trade shows, principally Farnborough. Here the business aviation community has defected en masse, forcing Farnborough organiser, the Society of British Aerospace Companies, to create a dedicated three-day exhibition on site during the main gathering in an effort to claw back support from the industry. The response to the inaugural show has been unenthusiastic, calling into question the longevity of this event.

Meanwhile, loyalty to Geneva as the location for EBACE since its conception is causing unease among a clutch of industry representatives, who are calling for the show to be rotated among other strategic European cities.

These rallying cries are unlikely to garner much support, however, given Palexpo's proximity to the international airport, railway terminal and city centre. Add in EBACE's on-site static aircraft display adjacent to the exhibition hall and the venue has unrivalled appeal.

This year more than 43 aircraft will displayed on the tarmac, seven more than last year, including nearly every major business aircraft in production, says EBAA. The line-up will feature the Cessna CJ3 and Citation Sovereign for the first time, Bombardier Learjet 60 Special Edition, Global 5000, Challenger 800 and the Gulfstream 450 and 550.

For the first time EBACE will feature business helicopters and promote the machines as a fresh alternative to corporate aircraft. "New-generation helicopters are environmentally friendly and very safe, but they are not held in the same high regard as their fixed-wing counterparts," Humphries says. "By bringing them into the business aviation fold and promoting the capability of these aircraft, we hope to reverse this trend."

Eurocopter will have a strong presence at the show, displaying a clutch of VIP-configured machines in the convention hall and the static area, including the EC365N3 Dauphin and EC130. Bell/Agusta may display its AB139 medium twin.

EBACE's rate of expansion has outpaced that of business aviation in Europe, although the overall outlook for the sec­tor is positive, given the rebounding economies and expanding borders, says Hum­phries. The continent's business air­craft fleet continues to expand. After holding steady at around 2,000 aircraft through the 1990s, the number of European-registered aircraft reached 2,287 by the end of 2002 and is now around 2,500.

In its latest annual business aircraft market forecast, Honeywell Aerospace says the five-year fleet replacement and expansion expectations fell in Europe last year to 24.2% from 26% in 2003. However, it points out: "Reported economic conditions differed somewhat by country in Europe, but most operators seemed more upbeat about economic conditions in their region than in 2003."

New models

Honeywell says western Europe is expected to provide about 11% of total business jet demand for the next five years and new models will be important in stimulating the European operators' purchase expectations. "About 45% of the jets European operators expect to take delivery of during the next five years are recently or soon to be introduced new or derivative models," Honeywell says, pinpointing long-range mid-size models and new very light jets.

While sales prospects remain upbeat, Europe's operators continue to face a number of challenges that threaten to impede services and threaten the livelihood of many companies across the region. Key areas of concern include airport security, airspace user fees and en route emissions charges, all of which will stimulate debate at next week's show.

The burning issue of fractional ownership, however, will be central to discussions. This year's event will herald the eagerly anticipated publication of recommendations from the industry working group on business aircraft operations (IWG-BAO) about the future status of fractional, charter and private operations in Europe (see P50).

The IWG-BAO team consists of trade associations, original equipment manufacturers, operators and service providers and was formed last year by the 41 European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) member states to examine the commercial and economic regulation of fractional, private and charter operations and establish Europe on a level playing field with the USA.

Humphries says most national government representatives within ECAC believe that fractional ownership does not need to be regulated under full public transport rules such as Joint Aviation Regulations JAR Ops 1 – the equivalent of US FAR Part 135 or Part 121. The IWG will recommend that European fractional ownership operations should be recognised as private and therefore conducted under the equivalent Part 91 Subpart K rules that cover US fractionals that could be dubbed JAR Ops 2 Annex I.

In exchange for relaxing the rules on fractionals and allowing Part 91K fractional operators to fly within Europe, IWG is asking the US authorities to relax their restrictions on European charter operators flying into the USA. Under current rules, the US Department of Transportation requires non-US operators to secure a costly Part 129 foreign carrier's certificate if they need to make more than six flights to the USA each year.

"There is no such restriction on US charter operators flying into Europe," Humphries says. "Yet the certificate is difficult and expensive to apply for, which effectively blocks access to the USA for many European operators." The recommendations seek to increase the limit to 12 charter flights a year before a Part 129 certificate would be required.

The IWG will further recommend that the USA lift cabotage restrictions on European charter operators landing at a US airport before flying on to another destination within the country, having dropped off one or more of the passengers. They would also expect the right to collect these passengers before returning to Europe.

Small aircraft

Another IWG proposal is that JAR Ops 1 rules for commercial operators should be amended to allow "small capacity aircraft" with fewer than 20 seats and 50,000kg (110,000lb) maximum take-off weight to use up to 80% of runway length, mirroring the US regulations for equivalent operators. "The US DoT will not be able to cherry-pick these recommendations. It's all or nothing," Humphries says.

The task force is also expected to discuss recommendations it recently submitted to the European Commission on security rules for commercial and non-commercial small capacity aircraft, including fractionals.

ECAC's agenda on security is to ensure that its member states implement uniform national aviation security programmes for almost all aircraft operating under commercial rules in accordance with the EC's EU2320 regulations.

The EBAA is seeking to level yet another playing field, which it says exists in the application of EU2320, where the rules are enforced for European charter operators, but not for US fractionals as they operate under Part 91K and are not subjected to the EU requirements.  

Flight International will be publishing Flight Evening News for the first time at EBACE. This will follow the same format as our NBAA newspaper and will be distributed late afternoon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, bringing that day's news to readers as they leave the convention hall or arrive at their hotels.


Source: Flight International