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​Business jet makers cite challenges with Indian infrastructure

Business jet manufacturers made a strong showing at this year’s India Aviation show in Hyderabad, although their representatives agreed that infrastructure is putting a brake on the sector’s growth in the subcontinent.

Dassault Falcon, Gulfstream and Embraer all had a notable presence at this year’s show, with aircraft such as the Gulfstream 650ER, Falcon 2000 XLS and Embraer Legacy 650 on display. Textron Aviation also had several aircraft at the show including two variants of its Beechcraft King Air range, a Cessna Grand Caravan, a Bell 412 and others.

Company representatives agreed that there was great potential in India’s growing economy and an increasing corporate recognition of the time savings business aircraft can offer, but all observed that India could be more business jet friendly.

Roger Sperry, regional senior vice president of international sales at Gulfstream, pointed to a number of issues such as the small number of slots at major airports, limited hangar space and lack of parking for corporate jets. It is not uncommon for a private jet to drop off passengers at a major airport before flying to another, more remote, airport for parking.

He also notes a lack of secondary airports serving major cities comparable to airports such as New York’s Teterboro, London’s Farnborough, and Singapore’s Seletar.

Gulfstream, which has 22 aircraft operating in India, has long had a presence in the country, and Sperry views it as a “mature” market where the role of business aircraft is well recognised.

“[But in] the last few years the Indian market has been slow,” he says. He attributes this to the infrastructure challenges India faces – which are also a hindrance for the country’s booming commercial airline sector.

Dassault Falcon says there is a discernible preference in India for its twin-engine offerings, namely the Falcon 2000 XLS. “Indian customers are very rational, and buy aircraft mainly for regional range,” says a spokesman.

However, the company is keen to sell more of its premium 7X and 8X aircraft in the country. India’s first 8X will be delivered by the end of 2016 and Dassault had hoped to bring a 7X to the show, but the aircraft earmarked for the show suffered damage to its wing tip at last week’s Abu Dhabi Air Expo.

Dassault’s senior vice president Olivier Villa believes that the company’s historical association with fighter jets serves its brand well in India. The Indian air force operates the Mirage 2000 fighter, and has operated other combat types produced by the French company.

Embraer, meanwhile, has enjoyed a strong few years in India and now has 28 aircraft in the country, of which 21 are business jets – this number includes five Legacy 600s operated by the Indian government for the VIP mission. From Embraer's stable, the Phenom 100 and 100E, with six aircraft, and the Legacy 650, with five, are the most prominent in India. The airframer's Legacy 500 made its first appearance at the show this year.

Claudio Camelier, vice president of sales for Embraer in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, says the company’s aircraft have tended to enjoy high utilisation rates in the country, but agrees that its infrastructure continues to present challenges.

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