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Geneva Grows: EBACE 2006 preview


MURDO MORRISON / LONDON

After a slow start, Europe's business aviation show EBACE has established itself as the main platform for manufacturers and suppliers to exhibit their wares

Five years after its launch into what was then a fairly stagnant European market, the region’s annual business aviation show, EBACE, has outgrown its original home in hall 7 of Geneva’s Palexpo exhibition centre after more than doubling in floorspace and visitor numbers. This year’s event – from 3-5 May – takes place in the new hall 6, with a 40% increase in exhibition space over last year and a record 9,000 visitors expected. “We were bursting at the seams where we were,” says Brian Humphries, the chief executive of the European Business Aviation Association, which co-hosts the event. “Now we’re bursting at the seams again.”

EBACE Geneva W445 
© NBAA

EBACE may have ougrown its previous site, but its concept remains the same

Back in May 2001, the decision by the EBAA and its bigger US counterpart, the National Business Aviation Association, to launch a European version of the long-established NBAA convention had a mixed reception. Many welcomed the chance for the region’s corporate aviation community to meet in its own backyard and discuss operational and business concerns specific to its market. It attracted 3,700 visitors, although several key players, including Bombardier, failed to turn up.

The downturn in the global business aviation market after 9/11 was another blow to EBACE’s prospects. But the show has continued to thrive and is now regarded by virtually the entire industry as a key platform to market its wares, says Humphries. “It is seen as much more than just a European show,” he says. “Manufacturers see it as a rest of the world marketing opportunity.”

Closer to home

With many business aviation users, particularly from the Middle East, finding it increasingly difficult to visit the USA for the NBAA show, Switzerland makes sense. “A lot of high net-worth individuals have business interests in the country, and Geneva is easy to get to,” he adds. “It’s a show where people come to do business and we appeal to a broad church.”

Humphries attributes the growth in the European business aviation market at least partly to the show’s success. “In the 1990s, the fleet of business aircraft in Europe was stuck around 2,000 with a few ups and downs. Since we launched EBACE, the fleet has grown by 25%.

The show’s main appeal is that it has stuck with its niche, says Humphries. “It’s an annual show, so we can’t help clashing with both Farnborough and Paris. But we don’t see ourselves as competing, more com­­plementing. People can come here without being distracted by noisy aircraft that have no bearing on what you’re trying to do. There are no big crowds. It’s next to the airport, and exhibitors can use the two FBOs [fixed base operations] to fly customers in, spend the day with them and fly them out again. Market segmentation has been a success.”

This year, there will be 45 aircraft on display, although one of the expected star attractions, the Eclipse Aviation Eclipse 500 very light jet, will not be making its European show debut as the manufacturer is working hard to meet its June US certification target. Aircraft that will be there include the Bombardier Challenger 605, which is making its European debut. German manufacturer Grob Aviation and its partner ExecuJet are also unveiling their VIP interior for the new SPn business jet.

Humphries is hoping that this year’s “topical” conference programme will attract larger audiences than in the past. Subjects to be covered include: the future of fractional ownership programmes, the market in Europe for very light jets, security in business aviation, emissions trading, operation of European-registered business aircraft in the USA, and the Single European Sky. There will also be a debate on the record of the European Aviation Safety Agency at which EASA’s chief executive Patrick Goudou will speak. Another session will cover business helicopters. 

Visitors to EBACE will be able to catch up on all the day’s announcements in Flight Evening News – the only same-day show newspaper – on 2, 3 and 4 May. The newspaper will be distributed at the convention hall and to key hotels at around 17:00. An online version will be available on flightglobal.com.

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