The growth in business aviation in Europe shows no sign of faltering. Reflecting that fact, next week's EBACE in Geneva is set to be the biggest ever
As the curtain rises next week on the seventh European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva, the organisers, the European Business Aviation Association and National Business Aviation Association, are declaring another record-smashing turnout for what is the leading business aviation showcase outside North America.
This year's Ebace will feature more exhibitors and more aircraft on display than 2006
The unprecedented demand for this year's event, to be held from 22-24 May, has forced the organisers to take over Halls 6 and 7 of Geneva's Palexpo exhibition centre for the first time.
"Last year the exhibitor count for EBACE was 292," says EBAA. "There were 1,206 booth spaces sold, and 52 fixed-wing aircraft joined four business helicopters on static display. So far this year 1,410 booths have been sold to over 340 exhibitors, and over 10,000 visitors are also expected across the three days."
The static display, conveniently sited adjacent to Hall 6, will boast 56 aircraft (54 fixed-wing and two helicopters), including show debutants the Eclipse 500 and Cessna Citation Mustang very light jets, which are on the final stages of European customer demonstration tours, and the large-cabin Bombardier Challenger 605.
"This the biggest and the best EBACE there has ever been," says Brian Humphries, outgoing chief executive of the EBAA and a key figure within the Brussels-based association for several years. Humphries, who will become part-time president once a replacement is found, says EBACE has blossomed since its conception in 2001, becoming a key event where European and Middle Eastern customers come to talk to vendors.
He says EBACE's steady growth is matched by the healthy pace at which business aircraft numbers have climbed in Europe, the largest business aviation market outside North America. "We were stuck at around 2,000 aircraft in the late 1990s, but have seen a steady growth to more than 2,850 today [1,919 jets and 932 turboprops], of which 300 were added in 2006 alone," he says. This view is reinforced by avionics-to-engines manufacturer Honeywell Aerospace's latest annual market forecast, in which it says Europe has provided "six consecutive years of strong purchase intentions. This is a great track record, and an indication of the value operators derive from business jets."
The manufacturer says that the euro's strength against the dollar "certainly provides an incentive to buy new aircraft, as does the increased wealth and business expansion expected in eastern Europe and Russia". Honeywell adds that European operators "also reported a particularly strong interest in expanding their fleets, versus simply replacing aircraft, an indication of confidence among operators in the region".
EBAA says the average age of the European business fleet is around eight years compared with a global average of about 18 years. Mid-size business aircraft such as the Hawker 800XP predominate, it says, making up around 50% of the continent's fleet. Light and superlight jets - Bombardier's Learjet 45XR for example - and large cabin types like the Gulfstream G450, account for the rest, with 30% and 20% of the market respectively.
The European Union's expansion is undoubtedly a major contributor to this boom. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January, and new countries are set to follow in coming years. Although aircraft sales and flight operations to new members, particularly the Czech Republic and Poland, were already growing before enlargement, the business potential is huge as these economies are growing fast.
While manufacturers and service providers tout for business, EBAA and its affiliates continue their efforts to ease the regulatory and operating paths. At EBACE, the key challenges faced by the industry will be debated across the range of conferences and seminars. These agenda-setting and often lively sessions have become an integral part of EBACE and are expected this year to attract larger audiences than ever. "European business aviation industry is thriving, but we cannot loose sight of the important issues that affect our ability to operate. We must continue tackle those areas where we are most at risk and keep our voices heard," says Humphries.
Visitors to EBACE will be able to catch up on all the day's developments in Flight Evening News - the only same-day show newspaper - on 21, 22 and 23 May. The newspaper will be distributed at the convention hall and to key hotels at around 17:00. Breaking news from EBACE will be available on flightglobal.com
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