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ASIA PACIFIC ROUND-UP

In the latest quarterly review of the industry in Asia Pacific- World Aircraft Sales Magazine has gained an exclusive interview with Nigel Harwood- CEO of InterGlobe General Aviation (IGAA)- a young Delhi-based Hawker Beechcraft Authorized Service and Sales Center based at Indira Ghandi International Airport.

Harwood not only explains his own company’s ambitions in Asian business aviation- but gives a personal appraisal of the current state of business aviation activity and an insight into business aviation traveling in the sub-continent. He has been working in India ‘off and on’ for the past 15 years- initially for Indian Airlines- then two years ago he helped set up IGGA for parent company InterGlobe Enterprises. His views on the current market situation are particularly interesting as this is his first involvement in general aviation after his previous 18-month stint as CEO of Kingfisher Airlines.

When asked about any noticeable downturn in Indian business aviation activity in the last 6-8 months- he observed- “It’s nowhere near as pronounced as maybe the UK and the US…. There is just a 10-12% drop in business aviation movements over here-” adding that the current mood in Indian bizav from the aircraft sales perspective is that demand is still there and he’s still selling airplanes.

“But Indian people are naturally conservative and are therefore reluctant to make any large purchases or make decisions when they don’t know the economic outcome over the next six months-” he summarized.

Despite the world economic situation he is still optimistic about his opportunities in India and although his company does not currently operate business jets it is seeking a NSOP (Non-Scheduled Operators Permit) in case it decides to go ahead.

“The reason we’re interested in looking at this [charter] in more detail is because the Indian market is so fragmented- apart from BJETS’ [Singapore/Mumbai-based fractional and block hours company] operation which is trying to get established here.” With no current big player amongst the charter operators- “It seems all very Ad Hoc with only one or two players with their one or two aircraft-” Harwood offers. “They operate out of one city- and if you don’t want to fly to that city then you don’t use them.”

Last year BJETS ordered 11 Hawker 900XPs and nine 850XPs with options from IGGA. The company also has 20 Cessna Citations on order. When asked how many aircraft had been delivered. Harwood would only say- “We currently maintain three Hawker 850XPs for BJETS.”

“I’d also like to take the company into heavier maintenance over the next 12 months-” said Harwood. “At the moment we have an 800XP undergoing a 4-800 hour check which is the first time that this check has been carried out in India. Before this an aircraft would have been flown out to Singapore or Dubai for maintenance.”

On the Hawker Beechcraft sales side he says that he sold three aircraft plus a ‘maybe’ in the first quarter. “We’re almost selling one aircraft a month which is a good number considering that in the US and Europe if you get one a year you’d consider yourself lucky at the moment-” he joked.

Given that the company was only set up around two years ago- IGGA managed to close on a significant number of aircraft sales in the first 12 months – “far exceeding our expectations especially as we were just selling Hawker aircraft then.” Since June/July 2008 the company has expanded its portfolio to include the Beechcraft range of aircraft.

“The King Air turboprop is still King in India-” Harwood reveals- “They are great workhorses and there are over 70 in operation.” This helps Hawker Beechcraft’s status as the Indian corporate aircraft market leader with around 60% of the market.

Last year IGGA signed an MoU with BBA Aviation- the parent company of Signature Flight Support- to make a joint bid to operate an FBO at Delhi- the result of the tendering process is expected by the end of this year. “If successful this would be our first FBO and again we don’t see ourselves being restricted to Delhi- as we’d like to develop a network of FBOs with BBA.

“The FBO concept doesn’t yet exist in India…. private terminals don’t exist- so business aviation travelers have to clear security through airport passenger terminals- then be bused to the aircraft. It’s an old-fashioned approach but now that there are over 200 general aviation aircraft in India the authorities (Indian Civil Aviation Authority- and the privatized airport operators at the main hubs) accept an FBO type concept as necessary.”

Harwood also says he is also developing a business model to widen IGGA’s MRO facilities across India. “The two areas we’re interested in are Mumbai and a heavily populated Hawker Beechcraft region in southern India. But there is stiff competition from Indamer and Airworks which have both been around for 50 years- so they have massive air coverage across India.

“Breaking into this business will be difficult as it is so competitive. We are trying to do this by leveraging work off aircraft sales- and then combine the sale with maintenance. We might possibly expand this within the next year and move into another part of India- but it won’t be full-scale in any shape or form…”

“We’re still a young company but we’re moving to professionalize general aviation here and offer turn-key solutions-” Harwood continued. “From aircraft delivery and technical acceptance- we can maintain it- provide finance through GE and Insurance through other top companies. We can even provide pilots sourced through an American-based company. We do have another tie-up with Atlanta Jet Inc. of the US whereby we can promote them and also sell new and used aircraft from their portfolio outside that of Hawker Beechcraft’s.”

Also in India- Mark Baier- CEO- BJETS- confirmed that his company was currently operating three Hawker 850XPs and a Citation CJ2. “We originally planned to have seven aircraft by this stage but now plan ten in operation by year-end which might include some managed ones.

“About 80% of our business is block-hour bookings rather than fractional. Most of our business is coming from India- but we are now also getting contracts from Indonesia and Malaysia- although Singapore is pretty quiet as its economy is probably the worst affected out here.” He added Indian elections were expected to generate a lot of business- some potential BJETS clients await the election outcome- while others are waiting until the new financial year starts in April. Still others- he says- contemplating buying their own business jets may have been pushed towards his company’s concept.

Elsewhere- India’s Tata industrial group has gained another foothold in world business aviation on top of its one-third share in Piaggio Aero last year- signing an MoU with AgustaWestland to build AW119 Koala light helicopters for the global market. Tata is also reportedly being wooed by Sikorsky to produce S-92 helicopter cabins.

Meanwhile Embraer has been building on its success in the region after adding three Legacy 600s to private owners. Phenom 100 sales have reached around 30 with Aviators India Pvt. Ltd ordering two Phenom 100s- while Invision Projects Pvt. Ltd holds the largest Indian Phenom 100 and 300 order so far. Mumbai-based Indamer is to be Embraer’s Indian authorized executive jet center covering scheduled and un-scheduled maintenance on Legacy 600 and Phenom 100s- and is due to be operational before mid-year. Another Indian customer has ordered a top of the range Embraer Lineage 1000.

Dassault’s Falcon 7X is also selling well with six of them due for delivery in the next few months to buyers in Bangalore- Delhi- Hyderabad- Mumbai and Pune. Dassault has opened a spares distribution center in Mumbai which will be bolstered by a large spares holding from its Singapore and Shanghai centers.

According to India’s Civil Aircraft Register- 36 business jets have been imported over the last 19/20 months. There are around 240 turbine powered helicopters registered in India and this fleet grew by 48 aircraft over the same 20 month period. Bell Helicopter is the Indian market leader with 30 newly registered aircraft amongst its fleet of around 114 aircraft.

Bell forecasts the number of helicopters in India will double every five years and that it hopes to supply 100 of them. This year it expects to sell 22 helicopters there. The region consists mostly of the single engine Bell 407- but also a number of utility 412EPs are on order. During the same period- Eurocopter added 9 aircraft to its fleet of 67 in country. This total does include 18 ageing Alouette helicopter types. AgustaWestland- has added eight helicopters during the period (mostly A109s) and now totals around 18 machines in country.

Hong Kong
The NBAA cancellation of ABACE (which was scheduled to have taken place from February 11-12) in Hong Kong has given added importance to the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress this coming September 7-10.

The Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) will convene its delayed AGM at the event. An agreement with AsBAA and Chuck Woods [CEO of Macau-based charter operator Jet Asia] has been signed to widen the show for a larger business aviation segment. Woods confirmed: “The AsBAA recently committed to co-sponsor Asian Aerospace in September 2009.”

The event will be held at Hong Kong International Airport’s adjacent World Expo with the static aircraft park just a short ride to the airport’s business aviation ramp.

Eurocopter is opening a Customer Service Center in Hong Kong to cover its 1-264 helicopters operating in the Asia-Pacific region. The daily operations will be managed by Helicopter CSC Ltd together with 12 local professionals. The company will gradually take-over all Asia-Pacific calls from the CSC in France.

Macau
“Business aviation in Asia has rolled back these past few months-” says Chuck Woods- CEO- Jet Asia. “Most operators report up to 30% reduction in their monthly flying volume. At Jet Asia- we’re seeing our Asian clients flying a bit more than our North American clients. Perhaps that’s due to the general decline in business aviation volumes in the US. Aircraft deliveries in Asia seem to remain robust- with Singapore- Kuala Lumpur- and Hong Kong the leading growth markets.

“Macau business has been affected by the global economic downturn. Several casino operators have delayed or stopped construction altogether- with thousands of foreign workers having left Macau in the past two quarters-” he added.

Last month (April) the first Project Phoenix CRJ200 15-seat VIP conversion was delivered to Hong Kong-based Ritz Pacific Limited- and is in operation with Jet Asia for the specific use of its unnamed owner.

Jet Asia’s charter fleet is to be updated further with further Challengers- and the company is pursuing a multiple-base strategy with aircraft being based in Kuala Lumpur- Taipei- and Bangkok.

From this same region comes the news of the first order cancellation of a VVIP Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner ordered by Sky Peace Ltd (in 2007) and owned by one of Hong Kong’s richest businessman- Joseph Lau. Although having lost one sale- Boeing’s VVIP 787 backlog is still a very healthy- 15 aircraft with the main body of orders for the airlines still in the region of 800.

First flight of the B787 is running two years late and first airliner deliveries are now scheduled for delivery in first quarter of 2010 further pushing back green deliveries of corporate versions to the completions centers.

Malaysia
TAIKO Jet SDN BHD- based at Subang Airport- Malaysia- has become Cessna’s newest Service Station in the Far East and covers Citation 550 and 680 Sovereign models. Cessna says there are currently 21 Citations operating in the Kuala Lumpur region.

Australia
As announced in the April issue of World Aircraft Sales Magazine- ExecuJet Aviation Group is expanding its MRO facilities in Brisbane and Melbourne to compliment the company’s heavy maintenance base in Sydney. Both the Melbourne and Brisbane facilities offer aircraft management and charter services. The newest charter aircraft in its fleet is Australia’s first new Global 5000 and Learjet 60XR. A new Global XRS is also scheduled to come under the company’s management in mid-2009.

The company’s state of the art- and approved- maintenance facility at Essendon Airport- Melbourne- can accommodate two aircraft up to Global Express or Gulfstream 550 in addition to four mid-size jets in the new hangar. Maintenance support covers most long- and medium-range aircraft such as Global Express- Gulfstream- Challengers- Citations and Hawkers. A comprehensively equipped FBO is envisaged here in the near future due to customer demand for on-site offices- lounges and crew facilities- says the company.

The Brisbane maintenance and FBO facility is in the process of being built and should be completed by September. It will offer aircraft management and MRO facilities to support warranty repair work on the entire Bombardier family of business aircraft- namely the Global- Challenger and Learjet series.

Hawker Pacific- which has FBOs in Sydney- Brisbane and Cairns- hopes to open an FBO at Perth- Western Australia- by mid-May- while Competitor ExecuJet is to open a business aircraft maintenance base there this year.

China
China has become the 57th country to certificate the Citation Mustang. Roger Whyte- senior vice president- Sales and Marketing for Cessna says- “We are excited about offering the Mustang in China.”

Thailand
Discussions have resumed between Airports of Thailand and the ASA Group to develop two state-of-the-art FBOs and accommodate the swelling ranks of VIP visitors at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport. The first of the FBOs will be positioned near to the main runway with its own dedicated ramp. Discussions regarding the project were interrupted late last year when anti-government protesters seized control of several Thai airports stranding at least 3-000 passengers.

Bangkok-based MJets has taken delivery of a Citation X- making it the first of the type to be specifically available for charter in country. With a top cruise speed of Mach 0.92- it will give clients the ability to fly non-stop from Bangkok to Beijing- Tokyo- Delhi- or Dubai in record time. And the Thai Government has ordered its third Embraer ERJ-135 which will be used for VIP transport and MedeVac missions.


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