Spring is in the air…
… Literally in our industry’s case. Traditionally this is the time for growth, new beginnings and births and fortunately my inbox seems to be bearing this out with a plethora of press releases with actual concrete good news, rather than simple vague numbers that melt into nothing when scrutinised closely.
My favourite number crunchers’ though are Richard Koe and his team at WingX,
who offer a complete industry monitoring service, including a free snapshot every month. Go and find them here. However, if time is short and you rely on me for accuracy, last months’ European stats are cautiously positive.
The overall decline of 0.6% was swayed by continued collapse in activity in Ukraine and Russia. In contrast, activity generally picked up in Western Europe, which saw a 6% hike in business aviation flight activity over this time last year at certain airports. Larger aircraft fared particularly well, with an overall increase in Gulfstream G500 type flights.
Meanwhile, everyone is gearing up for show season, with major events happening in Dallas at AEA in Dallas, TX April 8th-10th, Germany at Aircraft Interiors at Hamburg between 14 -16 of this month and Aero Friedrichshafen between 15 and 18 April. Over in Shanghai the 4th edition of the revamped Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (ABACE) takes place also between 14-16 April. I do have a slight pang, as this is the first time I’ve missed ABACE since its reincarnation, and it’s a show I attended several times in its former guise. However, am beavering away on the new business, which I’ll talk more about when it’s in better shape, so have grounded myself for the time being.
Back to that good news. The HondaJet is to make its debut in Japan and Europe as from late April when it starts a world tour, travelling more than 26,000 nautical miles and stopping at 13 countries en route. CEO Michimasa Fujino says, “We are excited to introduce the HondaJet to Japan and Europe for the first time. As part of this special tour, we will conduct demonstration flights to share what Honda has accomplished through the power of dreams.”
The HondaJet will travel from Japan to Europe for the 15th annual European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva. For the first time, the HondaJet will be on static display. Honda Aircraft is also planning a special demonstration tour with HondaJet dealers in Europe following EBACE. Demonstration flights will be offered at major cities in six countries including Switzerland (Geneva); U.K. (Farnborough and Birmingham); Belgium (Antwerp); France (Paris); Germany (Munich, Hamburg and Moenchen); and Poland (Warsaw).
Vero Beach, Florida based Piper is shouting about its Friedrichshafen display of a single-engine Piper Meridian turboprop, a twin-engine Piper Seneca V, and a Piper Archer DX. Why is this important? Drew McEwen, VP of sales and marketing explains, “Year after year, AERO Friedrichshafen is where serious general aviation buyers congregate from across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The trade show on the shores of Lake Constance is a prime meeting place for the aviation community and the perfect venue to begin promoting Piper’s industry-leading products with powerful value propositions.”
Pilatus, too, is crowing over some seriously good sales results for 2014. The Swiss based OEM generated more than CHF1bn of sales for the second year running, representing a 16% increase over 2013 figures. Pilatus built and delivered 127 aircraft during the year – 15 more than in 2013. Half of those went to civilian customers, the other half went to air force customers.
It also announced that its PC-24 is progressing apace. Pilatus opened the PC-24 order book last May, at EBACE in Geneva – even though the aircraft existed only on paper at the time. The firm took 84 firm orders in just two days. Production is scheduled to start in 2016, but if you bought one off the production line today you wouldn’t see it until the end of 2019. The first prototype is due to make its maiden flight in May.
Another Swiss entity TAG Aviation announced this week that it has added a sixth Gulfstream G650 to its fleet under management, making it one of the largest operators of the world’s fastest, ultra-long-range jet.
The G650 can fly near the speed of sound, with a maximum speed of Mach 0.925. With a range of 7,000 nautical miles, this private jet is capable of flying nonstop from London to Buenos Aires or Singapore. It features a wide cabin interior and is equipped with industry-leading inflight Wi-Fi and satellite communications systems. The large windows and low cabin pressure enhance comfort and reduce fatigue.
Graham Williamson, president aircraft management and charter services says, “We are proud to manage one of the world’s largest fleets of this revolutionary and highly sought-after aircraft.” Globally, TAG Aviation manages a fleet of over 120 aircraft, with around 50 available for charter.
Across the pond things are looking rosy, too. Completions experts Comlux America has broken ground on a new completion hangar that can house both narrow body and wide body aircraft simultaneously. The official ground breaking ceremony took place on the 6th of April 2015 and included key city and state officials as well as the company’s own senior management team. It should be finished by the end of the year.
The firm has also installed and certificated the first FANS (Future Air Navigation Services) programme on a Challenger 601 aircraft hot on the heels of receiving the STC to install FANS capable equipment in the entire 600 series aircraft.
Scott Meyer, CEO says, “The Challenger CL-600 airframes represent a large segment of our services division. Our customers can now operate in an environment that requires FANS and Link 2000+ capability. We are proud to be the very first company to have been awarded this STC and for the success of the first programme.”
In more tecchie news, Gogo Business Aviation has introduced its new ATG (Air to Ground) 1000 Connectivity System. What the company calls an “affordable” new system now enables in-flight e-mail and use of personal smartphones. Via the Gogo Biz network service, the ATG 1000 enables high-performance e-mail with attachments and calling and texting with passengers’ own smartphones and mobile numbers. The system is software-upgradable, which gives customers the ability to add connectivity features – such as web browsing – at any time, simply by purchasing a software key.
Beyond passenger use, in-flight connectivity continues to grow in popularity among flight crews. In the future, the ATG 1000 is also expected to support select cockpit and operational applications. Launched for the business aviation market in 2009, the Gogo Biz network service uses the firm’s ATG technology, providing service coverage throughout the continental US and portions of Alaska and Canada above 10,000 feet. John Wade, executive vice president says, “The ATG 1000’s affordability will make a connected in-flight experience accessible to a whole new category of aircraft. With high-performance e-mail and personal smartphone use, it’s basic connectivity that’s anything but basic.” Shipments are slated to begin this summer.
So a global sweep of good news for this update, which is always a joy to deliver. Watch this space for more info on the shows as they happen…