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Asia Pacific Round-Up - India general aviation sales surging.

The largest Asian business aviation event in the Asia-Pacific region dominates the news this quarter. ABACE2007 (Asian Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition) was held at the AsiaWorld Expo Convention Center at Hong Kong International Airport- February 6-7th.
    The second such event (the first was in Shanghai- China- in 2005)- it again brought together leading representatives from the business aviation community- industry specialists- sales teams- and buyers and government officials from Asia and beyond. Its aim: to explore- improve and expand business aviation opportunities in the region.
    High-level officials from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC)- Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (HKCAD)- Business Aviation Association for India (BAAI) and the Thai DCA Flight Standards Bureau either gave presentations or were on hand to lobby or be lobbied.
    The event was hailed as a great success by its hosts - the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) - with 65 companies exhibiting and 12 business aircraft displayed on the nearby ramp.   
    There were more than 2-200 attendees- roughly the same number as those at the first event- and according to Kathleen Blouin- NBAA senior vice president- conventions- seminars and forums; “We were very happy with attendance numbers and the seminars were extremely well attended. Exhibitors were very pleased with the new Hong Kong venue and its proximity to static aircraft viewing.” 
    The next ABACE will be held at the same venue in late January 2008 said Blouin. This will be around a month before the 2008 Singapore Air Show. “We think that Asia-Pacific business aviation is starting to open up a little bit and we know that sales were made there during the show- but not disclosed.”
    Airbus Corporate Jets announced its first non-governmental Asian ACJ order- and its first ‘corporate’ ultra-long-range A340-500 at the show. Both are for undisclosed customers from the region.
    Speakers from India- Thailand- and Taiwan gave insight into operating business jets in their parts of the world- and all expressed optimism about easing aircraft imports and further improving relationships with the region’s aviation authorities.

News from India
India-related news takes center stage with over 100 general aviation aircraft imported last year including 45 business jets- according to local sources. Another 200 await import permission from government authorities. Local press reports suggest that India's emergence as the fourth largest economy in the world- in terms of purchasing power- is growing India’s air charter industry at an estimated 30 percent a year.
    Last year’s imports- mainly by large Indian companies- included an ACJ- Gulfstream IV- Falcon 2000EX- Falcon 2000- Falcon 900EX- a Global Express XRS and many pre-owned and new Cessna Citations and Beech King Airs. The first Sikorsky S-92 has appeared on the Indian register too.
    India’s explosive economic growth of around nine percent per annum is the driver- and even small to medium sized companies and high net worth individuals are seeking better alternatives to flying by scheduled airline- explained Karen Singh- CEO of Delhi-based Indo Pacific Aviation Pvt. Ltd- and Business Aviation Association for India (BAAI) representative. Singh- whose company brokered seven aircraft deals for private owners last year- presented a vibrant picture of her country’s emergence as an upcoming major business aircraft user- but tempered this with BAAI worries that India’s airport infrastructure- airspace- and business aviation regulation won’t keep pace with imports.    
    Singh says that 2006 imports doubled India’s business aircraft fleet of around 52 aircraft to nearly 100- and that the BAAI expects one business jet to be added to the Indian register every third day for the next two years- which will triple the existing fleet. “All major business houses and high net worth individuals are joining the queue to become aircraft owners.”
    The drawback- she says- is India’s under utilized airports. The country has a total of 455 airports and airstrips- but only 135 are operational. “These need to be revived and we need to develop the rest. There are no separate guidelines for general aviation aircraft operations in India which makes a difficult regulatory environment for business aircraft. Most of the smaller airports lack VOR/ILS- and are at best fit only for VFR flights. There is no concept of FBOs- heliports- or general aviation terminals in the country- and until 2005 there were only 50 business aircraft in a country of one billion people.”
    Current estimates suggest that $25 billion needs to be spent over the next five-seven years on civil airport and air traffic management improvement and development. The need is being driven by a new breed of low cost airlines which are generating huge passenger increases resulting in overcrowded airport terminals- ramp space shortages and crowded skies- explains Singh. She says that air traffic control- in terms of training and technology- needs improvement- and that regional connectivity is poor and hubs need to be created.
    On the plus side- new rules allowing foreign investment in Indian companies- easier aircraft purchase finance- and the global ambitions of Indian companies- is all driving demand- she commented. The country needs 5-000 pilots- 25-000 engineers- and about 100-000 aviation specialists over the next five-seven years in all fields of civil aviation- but the combined capacity of all Indian flight schools is just 150 CPLs per year.
    During the recent Bangalore-based Aero India event- Raytheon announced sales of five aircraft for India; a Hawker 850XP- three Beechcraft King Airs and one Beechcraft Premier IA. According to one source Raytheon has a 60 percent market share- Cessna 15 percent- Gulfstream nine percent and four percent each to Dassault and Embraer. Note that Airbus Corporate Jets- Boeing Business Jets- and Bombardier- are not mentioned in the missing eight per cent- but Boeing says it has sold four BBJs into India- three of them within the last year.
    The only disclosed customer for one of these aircraft is the Indian Government. Airbus have sold and delivered one Airbus ACJ to Dr. Vijay Mallya- CEO of the UB Group (which includes Kingfisher Airlines)- and another is believed be in service with Reliance Industries. Airbus says that it holds several Indian ACJ orders. Bombardier has sold two aircraft to the Indian Government- one to Reliance Industries and another to the Raymond Group.
    Bombardier is seriously looking at setting up a business jet service centre in India- according to Derek Gilmour- vice president- Specialized Aircraft Solutions- Bombardier. From Indian sources- he said his company is focusing much more on India- and the service centre will be in either Juhu or Santa Cruz Airport- and provide maintenance- repairs- and overhaul to existing customers- as well as encouraging more potential aircraft buyers.

News from Taiwan
The latest information from Taiwan brings details of the problems facing Taiwanese business aircraft operators. Shaun Huang- of the Taiwan Aerospace Industry Association and Sunrise Airlines- explained at ABACE about his problems as an operator in a country where no individual is allowed to own a business aircraft.
    Currently- the only legal operation is in the general aviation category for companies offering aerial work. Huang says- “New laws are being drafted to allow Taiwanese ownership and operation of private/business aircraft- including charter and the opening of airports and FBOs for general aviation.”
    He explained that there are currently five general aviation companies in Taiwan; helicopter operator Sunrise Air- Government owned AIDC (Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation)- Emerald Pacific Airlines (helicopter operator)- Roc Aviation (Britten-Norman Islander operator) and Great Wing Airlines (also an Islander operator). Foreign registered based aircraft include a U.S. registered BBJ operated by EVA Air (commercial airline)- a Challenger 300- Gulfstream V- Global Express- Citation Sovereign- and a Gulfstream G200 based in Taiwan- while another G200 is based in China with Taiwanese investment in the Wang Wang Group. AIDC of Taiwan operates a Taiwanese registered IAI Astra SPX on aerial survey work.
    With a Taiwanese population of 23 million people- Huang reckons that in the short-term there is a requirement for 15 business jets- and 60 longer-term. He says Taiwan will become an ideal tech stop location for foreign registered jets because of its strategic location- convenience- low costs and quality service.
    The further relaxation of permissions for direct flights between Taiwan and mainland China will happen in a few years. He points out recent improvements in co-operation with the Beijing Government that has allowed Medevac- humanitarian- special air freight and some special charters during holidays.
    Huang’s Association is trying to get more of the country’s 18 airports (ten on Taiwan Island) opened up. He says- “Many domestic airports are under-utilized and may be opened for general aviation in the near future.” One of the priority airports is Taipei’s Sungshan which is close to the city center and the country’s business and financial center.

News from Thailand
The latest news coming from Thailand is of a real pilot shortage. Vutichai Singhamany- Director of Flight Standards Bureau- Dept of Civil Aviation- Thailand- says although some pilot training is available- commercial and type ratings have to be done abroad. It is also becoming more difficult for candidates to gain visas and they are facing tougher vetting processes by overseas training organizations.
    The country has six business aircraft and three helicopter operators. Most of the Thai business fleet are turboprops with Beech Super King Airs and Cessna 208B Caravans being popular. The business jet fleet consists of the Citation CJ3 and Learjet 35A- while Thailand’s first Premier I was due to be delivered in February and the first Hawker 850 due in-country by May. All Thai registered business aircraft are strictly two-pilot operation- with both required to hold valid type ratings.
    Singhamany says his department is in favor of an ‘open skies’ policy- and is supporting the expansion of the business jet industry- particularly via EMS operations- and promoting tourist destinations.
    Reports suggest that it could take up to 12 months to repair the runways at Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi International Airport which only opened last year. The runways- which were built on a drained swamp- have suffered cracks- and a depression has developed on one leading to cutbacks in aircraft handling capability. Business aircraft that were using the old Don Muang Airport will continue to do so- and again share ramp space with domestic and low cost airlines. Before Suvarnabhumi opened there was considerable doubt about Don Muang’s future. 

Japanese Regional Forum news
The first joint NBAA/JBAA (Japanese Business Aviation Association) Japanese Regional Forum was held at Nagoya International Airport on February 9th. Some aircraft demonstrated at ABACE were flown up for the event which was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and the Aichi Prefectural Government.
    “Four TV stations covered the event and did a fabulous job in promoting business aviation-” said NBAA’s Kathleen Blouin. “Exhibitors said they got very big contacts at the show and it was amazing to see around 400 delegates sitting straight through all of the presentations from around 13.00 to 17.00- such was the interest.”
    The current Japanese business aviation access problem is that the authorities offer Nagoya as the business aviation gateway to Tokyo - 164 miles away and 1.5 hours by Bullet Train. Business flights can use Narita International Airport- but access is limited and very expensive.
    “We haven’t had any feed back on improving this from the authorities but we’re going to keep trying-” Blouin commented. Quite a large number of Forum delegates were from Tokyo- but it isn’t known if they came by business jet or train.

News from Australia
TAG Aviation has launched TAG Aviation Australia- an aircraft management and charter company based at Sydney- and headed by Neil Gibson as CEO. Gibson was the managing director of TAG Aviation UK for the last six years. The new company has opened an office at Mascot- adjacent to Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport- has secured an AOC- and is in final negotiations for its first two managed aircraft.    
    David Bell- the executive director of the Australian Business Aviation Association- says that corporate aircraft and helicopter numbers (including Medevac) are ‘increasing gradually’- revealing that Australia has approximately 80 business jets and around 150 turboprops (with about 40 aeromedical) and approximately 30 corporate and Medevac helicopters.

 


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