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European Snapshot:
The present state of European Business Aviation

The feeling amongst most of Europe’s corporate aviation movers and shakers is that business is strong - even ‘booming’- for charter operators- FBOs- aircraft manufacturers- and maintenance related companies.

The latest Airclaims information backs this viewpoint up depicting a strong increase of 156 aircraft added to the European registers during the last 12 months. There are currently 1-484 European-based business jets listed- that are operated by 684 operators (that’s nine more operators listed than 12 months ago).

There are another 328 aircraft listed as ‘on order’. Interestingly- of these- 112 Eclipse 500s are destined for Switzerland- and a further 26 are destined for the UK. Other highlights include the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 with 18 orders from German customers and six from Sweden.

Citation Mustangs have reached 30 aircraft on order for Europe- with the Citation Sovereign list standing at ten. CJ2 and CJ2+ are also popular with nine on order- while the XLS has another ten. Raytheon’s 400XP is showing well with 17- this is probably part of an existing NetJets Europe order. Nine orders for the new Challenger 605s are in evidence- as are three Global 5000s and three Challenger 300s.

Judith Moreton- managing director of UK-based Skyjet International- believes that any business aviation charter company offering a series of flexible solutions cannot help but do well in this current climate. 'My feeling is that the business aviation industry will continue to boom this year after experiencing a record year in demand for charter last year-' she claims.

'As security processes continue to increase time spent at airports- charter is becoming more popular. At the same time those senior managers exposed to business aviation for the first time come to us for a cost effective solution to enable them to use business jets for their private travel as well.'

According to others- there is not only plenty of money about- but business is strong both for aircraft sales and charter.

Mike Creed- New Aircraft Sales Director at newly formed Action Aviation at Luton (UK)- whose company holds the distributorship for Sino Swearingen’s SJ30-2 light jet in 66 countries- says- 'The market right now is very strong for new and pre-owned fixed and rotary wing sales. Most of the companies chartering out the larger corporate jets are doing well- however- the smaller machines have slowed down- maybe due to the fierce competition at this level.'

Creed believes the introduction of the Very Light Jets and Light Jets will open up an exciting era that should stimulate entry-level customers. They will eventually trade up to larger aircraft and thereby maintain the sales momentum.

Niall Olver- CEO of ExecuJet Aviation Group which operates a fleet of 85-90 managed corporate jets on five continents- concurs- 'We are seeing a significantly increased interest in corporate aviation'. However- although he agrees that the European business aviation climate is one of the strongest- he wouldn’t say that it was exactly booming.

Trevor King- Signature Flight Support’s Director of FBO Services at London-Luton- does go that extra mile though- pointing out his Luton handling business is booming with aircraft movements well up on last years’.

Len Rayment at TAG’s Farnborough airport also says his aircraft movements are up 10% on a year ago- which is why he is in discussion with his local authority to try and lift his movements restrictions.

Signature Flight Support is backing its belief in European business aviation with a ‘multi million Euro’ spend. Its purchase of the six storey La Terminal building (Le Bourget) with its associated three acres of ramp space- as well as the take over of PrivatAir’s FBO and hangars- means it now owns 13 hangars and 54-000 square meters of ramp space at Europe’s busiest corporate/GA airfield. This has made it by far the largest FBO business at Le Bourget- Paris.

Fractional operator NetJets Europe is also seeing more business- and its European fleet is expected to rise from 91 aircraft to 115 by year-end- says Robert Dranitzke- director of communications - 'We’re bullish about the European business aviation market.'

Dranitzke explains that 78% of NetJets Europe business is still fractional while the other 22% comes from block hours card members. His two long-range Gulfstream 550s- a GV and three Falcon 2000EXs are fully fractionalized by members.

The company’s tie-up with Lufthansa offering corporate jet link services is also proving more popular than either party had expected. Discussions are currently ongoing to finalize their longer-term commitment.

Co-managing director of FERAS- Chris Cartwright- sees a marked growth in traffic of all sizes of bizjets from Citation Bravos up to GVs. 'This growth in traffic seems to be fueled by all sectors of the industry; fractional- charter- and corporate- and the development of based aircraft in the region. Germany is pretty slow - but that has not stopped us from being successful since start-up two years ago with good operations in Berlin- Munich and Frankfurt.'

Cartwright is obviously confident of the future as he intends to lift the company’s presence from eight to 14 German airports by the end of this year. FERAS now has a chain of handling operations at over 100 airports stretching from Brussels through the CIS to the Far East of Russia.

As the 2006 FIFA World Cup (Soccer) draws near- Germany is going to be a hive of activity before June 9th and after July 9th with many well heeled supporters- soccer teams- sponsors- and Heads-of-State- from most of the 32 countries involved- booking transport. This has got to be good news for European charter operators- FBOs- and handlers- as the matches are spread around 12 cities within the country.

Specifically- Signature’s Trevor King reckons the World Cup will generate extra business from the UK- but sees most charters being performed by Citation sized aircraft on day-return trips.

A spokesman for Jet Aviation also confirmed- 'Our charter department in Zurich- Switzerland- is expecting increased business during the World Cup period'.

FERAS is focused on the World Cup and expects a rush of bizjet activity. The company has posted six pages of World Cup briefing rules for corporate jet operators and established a single point of contact to assist customers.

So all in all- the European business aviation scene paints a pretty bright picture. Few would expect that to change in the immediate future.

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