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Asia-Pacific Round-Up The promise of growth in the region continues to materialize. Fortunately for business aircraft manufacturers half of the world’s business aircraft are now sold outside North America. Whether North American orders will be greatly affected by the current financial uncertainty will depend on how deep the downturn bites. One aviation business leader recently commented that it should- ‘At least take the froth off some orders and even help to shorten some customer waiting ...

Mike Vines   |   1st May 2008
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Asia-Pacific Round-Up
The promise of growth in the region continues to materialize.

Fortunately for business aircraft manufacturers half of the world’s business aircraft are now sold outside North America. Whether North American orders will be greatly affected by the current financial uncertainty will depend on how deep the downturn bites. One aviation business leader recently commented that it should- ‘At least take the froth off some orders and even help to shorten some customer waiting times’. Amongst the turmoil- the Asia-Pacific region’s business aviation orders are expected to remain steady- according to many within the industry- and hopefully be far less affected by an economic downturn- if affected at all.

Indian potential
India is the country that is on every business aviation CEO’s lips at the moment. Its potential- despite its current creaking general aviation infrastructure- is huge. The country’s buying power was brought to world notice again in late March when India’s largest private employer- the Tata Group- bought the UK-based Land Rover and Jaguar automobile companies from the Ford Motor Company for $2.2 billion. The Tata Group also operates two Dassault Falcon 2000s- and a spokesman for the very up-market Taj Air (part of the group) says the company is to add a Falcon 2000EX EASy and a Falcon 7X within two years.

Vijay Mallya- the flamboyant Chairman of India’s United Breweries and Kingfisher Airlines- not only has an Airbus ACJ but has bought a 50% stake in Epic Aircraft with the goal of building hundreds of Very Light Jets in the U.S.

Meantime- New Delhi-based fractional Club One Air has ordered ten Eclipse 500s for its program. Four aircraft are due for delivery this year- followed by six more in 2009. Club One Air’s managing director- Manav Singh- says that he hopes to conclude negotiations by year-end to further increase the fleet.

Australian Connections
Both Hawker Pacific and ExecuJet are actively investigating opening up maintenance operations and FBOs in India but are very tight-lipped about exact locations. In the meantime both companies are busy expanding operations in Australia- and north into Singapore- Malaysia and beyond.

ExecuJet has opened at Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park with a large hangar offering maintenance and handling for wide body long-range Bombardier aircraft. Hawker Pacific has a major Hawker Beechcraft maintenance base at Seletar and a temporary FBO- and is due to move into new purpose built premises there by 2010. ExecuJet has extended its maintenance and handling presence at Melbourne International Airport- too- and continues to share the north east business jet ramp at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport with Hawker Pacific. Both companies have full FBOs at Sydney- but according to Hawker Pacific’s CEO Alan Smith- both companies (movements split roughly 50-50) await the airport owners’ decision on the future of business aviation at what is Australia’s busiest airport. Hawker Pacific has recently set up a full Dassault Falcon Service Center at Kingsford Smith. Smith says that Macquarie owned Sydney/Kingsford Smith is still going through machinations about the future of business aviation at the airport- “all of us - ExecuJet- Hawker Pacific and a number of other operators in this class are on very short tenures waiting for the final master plan in relation to this segment of the market-” he summarized.

With Kingsford Smith threatened as a long term business aviation hub- attention is switching west to Sydney’s Metropolitan Airport at Bankstown- some 40 minutes road journey from the business district. The airfield- which was built in 1940- was privatized five years ago and is ripe for development. The local press are already suggesting it will be Sydney’s second airport which would take a lot of the regional airline traffic congestion out of the equation at Kingsford Smith. You could argue that if this did happen then it would free up more business aviation slots at the international airport.

In the meantime decisions by the Federal authorities- the airport owners (who are very keen to see more scheduled services) and the local population have to be made before Bankstown can assume this role- despite the optimism of the local press who say low cost regional jet airline traffic could be landing here within 18 months. Currently the airport is limited to 18 domestic scheduled passenger carrying flights per day. The main runway needs to be lengthened to accept Airbus A319 type aircraft and the whole infrastructure improved.

Hawker Pacific has its HQ- a fixed-wing and helicopter maintenance base- and design office at Bankstown- and Alan Smith explains- “The proposal to open up the airport to regional airlines will be good for our regional airline maintenance business- and will provide more business opportunities here”. Hawker Pacific does not yet have an FBO at Bankstown- but it would seem a logical move given Kingsford Smith’s uncertain future.

World Aircraft Sales Magazine visited Bankstown in late February as guests of Hawker Pacific. A quick walk around the company’s facility underlines its importance as Hawker Beechcraft’s maintenance and sales representative for the region- and particularly the work generated by the ubiquitous Beech King Air family of aircraft.

Hawker Pacific is a Raisbeck Engineering authorized dealer for the King Air- and performs locker and wing tip modification work. The company is also the only licensee outside the U.S. authorized to perform King Air freight door modification- which takes about 18 weeks and is vital for stretcher accommodation for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The company also fits out the specialist interiors from drawings supplied by the in-house design team – Hawker Pacific Technologies - which was responsible for the interior design of Oasis Airline’s Boeing 747-400s. Also seen in the hangar were a pair of second hand Bell 206L4 Long-ranger helicopters being re-built and checked before Papuan New Guinea registration. Out on the ramp an Australian Army Beech Super King Air 350 was awaiting attention.

Hawker Pacific has ambitions to open operations at Melbourne- Perth- Kuala Lumpur- and Jakarta- adding to its pristine Brisbane FBO/maintenance base and its regional airline maintenance base at Cairns on Australia’s eastern seaboard. The golden triangle of Melbourne- Sydney and Brisbane is Australia’s busiest business aviation region. “Brisbane is an up-and-coming destination- and we are seeing increasing levels of operation- but admittedly from a fairly humble start-” revealed Smith. “FBOs are one of our more recent businesses developed over the last five years- and have given us the ability to provide a full service model from aircraft sales- maintenance- handling and aircraft management.” The company also offers product support for Embraer’s Legacy 600 but does not sell them.

Hawker Pacific currently manages a Hawker Beechcraft Premier I- Cessna Citation Bravo- Citation CJ1 and a Falcon 2000. “It is important to say that with aircraft management- we are not seeking to compete aggressively in this market place – it is more about providing our aircraft owners with a service and a revenue stream for them-” added Smith.

Smith also says that the Beech King Air is still a prolific seller in Australia- particularly with the Royal Flying Doctor Service operating 14 in the South Eastern Section- and ten in Queensland- with four more each operated by N.S.W. Air Ambulance and Victoria Air Ambulance. The latter eight aircraft are operated by the RFDS- but on commercial insurance MedeVac operations on contract to the State Governments.

Tony Jones- Hawker Pacific’s senior vice president- aircraft sales and flight services- and based at the company’s Sydney Kingsford Smith FBO- says that the Australian dollar remains very healthy against the US currency and is tempting more companies and individuals to buy business aircraft for the first time. “Australia’s resource driven (mining and minerals) economy is bullish-” added Smith.

“International business aviation traffic is growing by 5-7% per year according to Jones- “While domestic traffic is showing growth of around 12%. The charter side of the business has grown around 70% over the last five years- but did admittedly start from a very low base.”

Hawker Pacific’s sales and maintenance portfolio includes Hawker Beechcraft for Australia- New Zealand- Pacific Islands and southeast Asia- as well as Falcon jets and Bell Helicopter. Jones said that the Hawker 900XP is selling well within the region- and orders for five Hawker aircraft are already in the pipeline this year. Sales of Dassault’s Falcon 900EX and Falcon 7X are also popular- and the first Australia-registered 7X is due to be delivered in 2010.

First Cessna Shop to Open
Bankstown-based Aeromil Pacific- which took over the Cessna dealership for Australia- New Zealand- and parts of the Pacific region in 2005- says that its aircraft sales have been up 10% each year for the last two years. To sell the idea of business aviation in Australia- it is to open a street front shop on Sydney’s Spring Street - which is very close to the Macquarie Bank H.Q.- known locally as ‘The Millionaire Factory’. The sales and marketing shop is to be branded as ‘The Cessna Shop by Aeromil Pacific.’

The company is also to upgrade its Queensland maintenance operation to a full Cessna Citation Service Center by year-end. And the arrival of its first five of 11 Citation Mustangs has proved it to be the perfect aircraft for flights between Australia’s eastern seaboard cities- reveals executive chairman- Steve Padgett. Two of them are now flying in New Zealand.

Bizjet charter in South Korea
Outside of Australia- Hanseo Aerospace of South Korea was due to start the country’s first ‘air taxi’ charter operation in April. The company- better known for its aerial fire-fighting activities- gained its charter AOC earlier this year. It was set up in 2005 as a corporation associated with Hanseo University which is also a shareholder in the new venture.

Hanseo’s first charter offering is a Beech 1900D- due to be joined by a Hawker 900XP and a King Air C90GT by year-end. Local reports suggest that other companies are considering business charter start-ups in-country in the not-too-distant future.

China activity
The first of three- 23-seat- Airbus ACJs for Sonangol International Holding Ltd of China has been completed by Associated Air Center in the U.S. and was delivered in January. The remaining two are due to be delivered later this year. Sonangol has also ordered two Embraer Legacy 600s- the first to be registered in mainland China- bringing the Brazilian manufacturer’s China tally to three.

Avion Pacific Ltd has become a Hawker Beechcraft authorized sales representative with bases in China- Hong Kong and Macau. Avion has ordered two Hawker 4000s- two Hawker 900XPs and two Hawker 750s for customer deliveries slated for 2009. Meantime- Beijing-based Deer Jet- a Hainan Airlines subsidiary- has confirmed its order for a Hawker 900XP (delivery 2009) and a Hawker 850XP (delivery early 2008). Its current fleet consists of four Hawker 800XPs- and a Gulfstream IV. Planned fleet additions include three Gulfstream G350s- another GIV this year and a Boeing BBJ in 2011.

And Airbus Executive and Private Aviation received another order from BAA Jet Management Ltd. of Hong Kong for an Airbus ACJ Prestige due for delivery in 2011. This makes two ACJs on order through BAA Jet Management and an A318 Elite. Cessna claims to have more business jets in China than any other manufacturer - a list that includes six CJ1s for flight training- a Citation XLS for flight inspection (delivery due this year) and a number of flight training Citation Mustangs on order. The planemaker has also acted to appoint Taneja Aerospace of Hosur (near Bangalor) as a Citation Authorized Service Station. Cessna has received its first Caravan and Citation orders from Vietnam and its first Citation Sovereign order from South Korea. It also announced that a Citation Field Service Engineer is to be installed at Seletar Aerospace Park.

Hawker Beechcraft has received an order for nine Beech Baron G58 twins from the Japanese Civil Aviation College for use in the flight training role. Deliveries are due to start in 2010. And finally- Dassault Falcon has opened a spares distribution center in Shanghai and signed for another in Mumbai. The Shanghai center was due to open in March and the Mumbai center in May.

Seletar Aerospace Park
The Singapore Government’s decision to convert the historic ex-Seletar military airfield into a modern and progressive aerospace campus is starting to take shape with more companies buying-in.

World Aircraft Sales Magazine was fortunate enough to get a guided tour the day that Pratt & Whitney broke ground on its new 105-000 sq. ft. facility and Singapore’s ST Aerospace officially opened its new Hangar 700- showing off its latest MRO hangar and its first Boeing 757-200 Passenger-to-Freighter conversion.

To underline the importance of the Aerospace Park to the country- Mr. Lim Hng Kiang- Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry- gave the keynote speech at both ceremonies.

Malaysia Opening Up And finally for this month- Malaysia is seen as a major Dassault Falcon sales territory not only with a number of Falcon 7Xs already ordered- but owners not yet announced according to industry observers. Sources also say that the change of Government in Malaysia is making business aircraft ownership more acceptable.

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