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Asia Pacific Business Aviation Round-Up

As the rest of the world limps out of recession- Asia Pacific business jet orders continue to dominate western OEM books. For instance- India has an order backlog of 156 business jets - a number claimed to be the fourth largest in the world behind the U.S.- the U.K. and Portugal.

Twenty percent of these orders are for jets with fewer than five seats – a totally new market for the sub-continent which equates to around 30 aircraft- according to Kapil Kaul of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

INDIA
Part of the Indian backlog are six Dassault Falcon 7Xs with the first delivered last month to New Delhi-based charter company Religare Voyages Limited. The Falcon 7X gained Indian Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) certification in November 2009. Another named Indian Falcon 7X buyer is Mr. Ratan N. Tata- Chairman of the giant Tata Group.

Dassault says there are currently 16 Falcon 2000 and Falcon 900 models already operating here with a total of a dozen aircraft due for delivery within the next three years. “India has become one of our strongest markets in the last few years-” said John Rosanvallon- President and CEO. “As the country’s economy continues to strengthen there will be an increasing need to connect India efficiently with other major centers of trade around the world. For example- the Falcon 7X provides direct- non-stop access from Hyderabad or Chennai to the UK’s London City Airport.”

To support its growing Indian fleet Falcon Customer Service recently relocated a Falcon Customer Service Manager from France to Mumbai- after opening a spares distribution center in late 2008. The company also has authorized Service Centers in Dubai and Singapore- and is evaluating a number of Indian service centers for potential inclusion in Dassault’s network to further extend support in the region. A regional MRO seminar dedicated to Falcon operators was set to be held in Mumbai on April 8th.

At the other end of the business aircraft spectrum- Cessna completed its first Citation Mustang customer demonstration tour of India in early March on its way to debut at the India Aviation 2010 event at Begumpet Airport (VOHY) in Hyderabad.

“There is a lot of interest in the Mustang around India and it was well received-” said Todd Duhnke- Cessna’s director of International Sales. Cessna recently rolled out its 300th Citation Mustang which is heading for Asia Pacific (New Zealand). “Over the past several months we’ve seen increased interest in the Citation family of business jets - especially the Citation CJ2+ and Citation XLS+.”

Eurocopter- meantime- has signed a contract to supply Pawan Hans Helicopters- the largest civil helicopter operator in India- with seven new Dauphin AS 365 N3 helicopters. The new purchase- will take Pawan Hans’ fleet to 33 Dauphins- making it the biggest Eurocopter fleet operator in India and largest Dauphin offshore operator in the world. The aircraft will also transport state officials and VIPs- and be available for private charter.

Europe’s other helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland is also doing more than O.K. in the country with its latest deliveries of a VIP six-passenger Grand light twin to the Uttar Pradesh State Government and an AW139 to Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. And Eurocopter authorized distributor Sharp Ocean has signed a contract for two Grands and one AW119Ke single engine helicopter. The aircraft will be delivered to Indian private customers and used to perform VIP transport missions.

To underline the developing industry in India- the country’s first dedicated business aviation event- IBAE 2010 (Indian Business Aviation Expo) was held in Delhi- and provided the opportunity for India’s bizav community to express its ideas and frustrations to government aviation officials attending the event.

Capt. Karan Singh from the Business Aviation Association for India asked for a direct and open dialogue with Government and for the landing permit approval process to be simplified so that private aviation could move forward. The Joint Secretary for India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation declared he was sympathetic to the needs of the Association and the industry in general and would do his best to promote their interests.

The Indian Government has stated that it intends to upgrade- or bring back into use some 300 airfields to help meet demand for general aviation- and it sees clear advantages in separating commercial from business aviation traffic.

The Indian tax regime is seen as unfavorable by India’s business aviation community and- according to many- effectively discriminates against them. There was- however- general agreement that as the major hubs become ever-more congested the demand for private and business aviation would increase- making attractive opportunities for innovative aviation enterprises.

India defied the global recession last year by posting a very healthy GDP growth rate of 7%. As a result more people are flying scheduled airlines- and delegates believed that Government was favoring the airlines to the detriment of private aviation. Panelists were asked to outline their priorities by the time of the next IBAE in 12 months time. They were upbeat about the possibilities for business aviation in India and India’s role in terms of supplying and supporting the global business aviation industry- but a desire for Government to better understand and support the sector was the overall assessment.

CHINA
The big event to occur in China over the past quarter was the Singapore Airshow that drew more than 112-000 visitors. Trade-day visitors exceeded 41-000 from 122 countries/regions- with an increased percentage of overseas trade visitors over past years. As is the case in India- Dassault Falcon has been very active in China too- recently gaining Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) Falcon 7X Certification.

Rosanvallon expected three deliveries to have taken place into the region before the end of the first quarter of the year - one of which was almost certain to be the first for MinSheng Financial Leasing of China as mentioned in previous articles in World Aircraft Sales Magazine. “As an industry- we’ve been waiting for China to emerge as a strong force for several years-” Rosanvallon elaborated. “That time has arrived and this certification will not only help Dassault Falcon continue to grow in China- but will be of vital importance to all of our operators.”

Another Chinese first occured in February when Hawker Beechcraft delivered its first Hawker 4000 business jet- based at Beijing Capital International Airport- to be utilized for both business and leisure travel by an unnamed customer. The Hawker 4000 gained certification by the CAAC in November 2009.

Another two Hawker 4000s are to be delivered into the Asia Pacific region within the next two months- but Hawker Beechcraft declined to give further details. “The first delivery of a Hawker 4000 to a customer in mainland China is a milestone for us and for aviation in a country with one of the world’s most rapidly expanding economies-” said Justin Firestone- Hawker Beechcraft’s president- Asia Pacific.

“The Hawker 4000 provides the range- performance and capacity needed to do business in a country as vast as China- and throughout the Pacific Rim. This remarkable aircraft can seamlessly conduct non-stop missions such as Shanghai to Singapore- Beijing to Bangkok and Hong Kong to Tokyo.”

AUSTRALIA
Although the strong Australian Dollar is making aircraft purchase and spare parts cheaper- Steve Padgett- chairman of Australia-based Aeromil Pacific observes that people are still making decisions based on the economic climate- the AUS Dollar is just a bonus. Aeromil Pacific’s H.Q and MRO Authorized Cessna Service Center is based at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Airport.

Padgett says on the aircraft sales side of his business- “There are a lot of prospects on the books. There is a lot of choice particularly in the used market – but there are still people out there who want to buy new- irrespective of the prices of used aircraft. People are looking for deals and we are out to satisfy that.”

He adds that Australia’s massive resource industry (mining) is coming back quite strongly and could produce more aircraft orders. Some existing Citation-flying mine-owners are clocking up 600 hours per year. Apart from Cessna- the company is well known for supporting the four Learjet 45s operated by the Singapore (Airlines) Flying College (SFC) which are being replaced by five Mustangs from this June. The College is within 100 meters of Aeromil’s MRO at Sunshine Coast Airport- and to roughly coincide with the first Mustang delivery in June will offer third party flight crew training on its two Mustang Level D Simulators promoted by Aeromil Pacific.

INDONESIA
Cessna has delivered five more Grand Caravans to Indonesia’s Susi Air as part of its order for 30 of the single engine turboprops announced last year. Susi Air is now the largest Grand Caravan fleet operator in Asia. Nine new Caravans were delivered to Susi Air in 2009 with 11 more due this year and the remainder by the end of 2011.

The 30 aircraft will augment Susi Air’s existing fleet of 10 Grand Caravans which it utilizes on passenger charters and cargo services- as well as humanitarian airlift support for the region. The company has also become a Piaggio Avanti II operator with the arrival of its first aircraft last year- with two more due for delivery in the second and third quarters this year. The aircraft will be used as executive transports and in MedeVac roles.

THAILAND
Executive jet operator and handler MJets of Thailand is bidding to operate the yet-to-be-built Phuket Airport FBO- which will be integral to the success of the neighboring luxury Jumeirah Private Island Resort and Spa due to open 2011.

“The FBO will require a great deal of investment funding- and I believe only MJets is ready for such huge investment-” said Jaiyavat Navaraj- MJets’ MD. The company already has a ground handling team and equipment at Phuket so looks well placed if it should win.

MJets currently operates a Cessna CJ3- a Citation X and a Piper Malibu- and is about to start operating its first managed aircraft. It has already won the bid to build the Private Jet Terminal and related FBO facilities at Bangkok (VTBD) which was expected to be operational March 15th. More hangarage is also being refurbished here. The company- part of Thailand’s huge Minor Corporation PCL (a leading distributor of international lifestyle brands) is also researching the potential for Air Ambulance operations.

FLEXJET AND VISTAJET IN TALKS
Switzerland-based VistaJet has entered discussions with Bombardier’s Flexjet fractional operation to join in a mutual global alliance which would benefit corporate aircraft users across the world.

VistaJet with its $1.2 billion worth of Bombardier business jets on order and 25+ aircraft in operation offers block hours while filling empty legs with ad hoc charters. Flexjet is the second largest fractional ownership program in North America and also offers block-hours bookings. VistaJet’s operations stretch across Asia Pacific- the Middle East- Africa- Russia and Europe- while Flexjet’s strength is in North America.

SELETAR AEROSPACE PARK
It is two years and a world recession since World Aircraft Sales Magazine last visited Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park which is slowly coming together as a dedicated business aviation airport and aviation manufacturing center. It will become a world-class aerospace campus when Rolls Royce- Eurocopter and Pratt & Whitney Canada join the already-based Singapore Technologies there.

Runway 03/21 has been lengthened (by 1-000 feet to 6-000 feet). Taxiways and the general infrastructure have also been brought up to the latest specification. The first building to emerge above ground was a Lego-like multi-storey edifice which houses the electricity substation. The site for a new control tower has been levelled and building work is about to start.

Runway length was shortened while night-work on the thresholds was undertaken- and there was a night-time curfew (18.00 to 06.00). Some business aviation traffic preferred to operate into Changi International.
“This didn’t affect aircraft flying in for maintenance though-” said Sebastian Groeger- senior vice president & general manager- Jet Aviation (Asia Pacific) Pte Ltd. “In fact we serviced 200 aircraft here last year- which is a very large number.”

EMBRAER NUMBERS TO GROW IN REGION
While the long-range iron is selling well in the Asia Pacific region because of geographic necessity- orders for light jets are also building up- according to Luís Carlos Affonso- Embraer’s Senior VP Corporate Aviation Market- who says his company is set to deliver a mix of 40 Phenom 100s and Phenom 300s to the Asia Pacific region over the next three years.

Although he would not be drawn on how many of each aircraft type were included- he divulged that orders had been received from India- Australia- Philippines- Taiwan and Indonesia- and forecasts Embraer will sell around 250 jets each- to both India and China over the next 10 years. The Pakistan Government already operates three Phenom 100s on liaison duties.

An Embraer Phenom 100 demonstrator recently visited Adelaide- Melbourne- Canberra- Sydney- the Sunshine Coast- Brisbane- Cairns- and Darwin. The tour follows Embraer’s announcement that ExecuJet is now its authorized service center for the region. This Australian arm of the Switzerland-based company provides 24-hour service for all Embraer executive jets down-under.

Kapil Kaul of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation gave some interesting Indian Business Aviation Statistics at the first Indian Business Aviation Expo held in Delhi in February. According to Kaul there are currently 111 business jets on the Indian Civil Register. By manufacturer- they are:

Airbus 2
Bae 1
Boeing 2
Bombardier 21
Cessna 28
Dassault 15
Embraer 2
Gulfstream 7
Hawker 28
Israel Aerospace 5

The largest Indian business jet operators are:

Reliance 8
Club One Air 6
BJETS 4
Futura Travel 4
Jindal 4
Span Air 3
Punj Lloyd 3
Taj Air 3

(These figures were accurate as of January 10th.)

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