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OPINION: Why business aviation must innovate to drive recovery

In business aviation, sales slumps are usually broken by the arrival of new products, which explains why most forecasts predict any recovery will occur after 2017. That aligns with the arrival of several impressive models, such as the Bombardier Global 7000, Cessna Citation Longitude, Gulfstream G500 and Pilatus PC-24.

But relying on new products to stimulate demand doesn’t always work. Sometimes projects get delayed, and, even if they arrive on time, the market might not move. Since 2015, manufacturers have delivered the Citation Latitude, Dassault Falcon 8X, Embraer Legacy 450 and the Honda Aircraft HondaJet. Each features impressive performance and new technologies, yet the market in most regions has shrunk.

To drive a real recovery, the industry needs to come up with a better way of doing business: one less reliant on new metal. While improved aircraft are still necessary, the sector needs to do more to stimulate demand.

The annual NBAA convention revealed that this message is getting through. No new aircraft designs were launched. Instead, a plethora of new business models were advanced: premium travel clubs, online booking consolidators, scheduled service to markets underserved by airlines, and power-by-the-hour support deals extending to the used sector.

If business aviation ever recovers, it will be because innovators found a way to grow the customer base.

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