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People have been saying for the last two or three years- ‘If the breakthrough in Asia Pacific business aviation doesn’t occur this year- then it will come very soon’. The best indication yet that this is about to occur is that the big players are now rushing to be part of the coming action and committing themselves to the region like never before. Many say credit crunch or not- business aviation in this region will ...

Mike Vines   |   1st August 2008
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Asia Pacific Update

Cessna store emerges among much regional activity.

People have been saying for the last two or three years- ‘If the breakthrough in Asia Pacific business aviation doesn’t occur this year- then it will come very soon’. The best indication yet that this is about to occur is that the big players are now rushing to be part of the coming action and committing themselves to the region like never before. Many say credit crunch or not- business aviation in this region will probably weather the storm better than most other parts of world.

Up until now corporate jet operators in the region often had to fly their aircraft to other countries to get warranty and scheduled maintenance work done. Jet Aviation- ExecuJet- and Hawker Pacific have been following the OEM delivery schedules- however- and are about to open new FBO and maintenance operations closer to these hotspots of activity. Jet Aviation has become the first western company to open an FBO and line maintenance operation in Beijing- and as if that wasn’t enough- the company has also signed a joint venture Memorandum of Understanding with Airod of Malaysia to open at Kuala Lumpur’s Subang International Airport.

Jet Aviation’s Beijing operation is based at Capital International Airport- (25km north of the city) and is a joint venture with Deer Air- a subsidiary of HNA Group of China. Handling and limited line maintenance services will be ready in time for the Olympic Games [8–24 August]- according to Peter Edwards- Group CEO of Jet Aviation. The three story 3-300 square meter state-of-the art FBO building should be ready in time for the Olympics while the 6-000 square meter hangar facility is due to be completed by early 2009. The FBO building has all the comforts and facilities expected of Jet Aviation- it also has in-house 24/7 border police and customs- baggage screening- and metal detection capabilities.

Edwards commented that the backdrop of this summer’s Olympics is overshadowing everything at the moment: “It puts a severe timeline on everything we do there.” He explained that priority one is to be ready to support the Olympics- where 400-500 business jets are expected. Jet Aviation will fly in extra staff from its other FBOs to help out during this peak period - and then after the Olympics- the company will get on with the business of completing its Beijing business plan through 2008/09. “There’s a lot of growth here and we wanted to be there first…” Edwards added. “We will participate in that growth- and be a key facilitator in bringing the infrastructure that wasn’t there before. We also intend to enhance the aircraft management business- which will be an important part of the mix in this joint venture.”

Jet Aviation’s MoU joint venture with Airod of Malaysia offers FBO- line maintenance and AOG services at Subang Airport and is due to be formalized during August. Operating under ‘Jet Aviation Malaysia’ or similar title- the facility has 4-850sqm dedicated hangar space- with extensive maintenance space- repair shops- component overhaul facilities- and a 280sqm FBO building. Airod is Malaysia’s leading aerospace MRO specialist.

Subang- Kuala Lumpur’s ex-international airport- has become a regional city airport- is just 15km from downtown Kuala Lumpur- and is to be the business hub for Asia and serious competition for Singapore’s Seletar Aerospace Park.

There is going to be plenty of competition at Subang as ExecuJet Aviation Group and Hawker Pacific- two of the leading players in business aviation in the region- have surprisingly joined forces to officially inaugurate Skypark Malaysia - a new and exclusive FBO here. Its FBO will offer full handling facilities plus a VIP lounge - and fuel provision in a brand new 8-000 sq ft facility as well as the exclusive rights for ExecuJet and Hawker Pacific to move to another new building- due to be completed in two years time.

Two new 5-000sqm MRO hangars will be built within the dedicated business aircraft precinct- with each company having its own maintenance facility. ExecuJet says that its MRO will be operational within 18 months and offers Bombardier and Gulfstream maintenance. An ExecuJet spokesperson said that the MRO will also- “Support aircraft that we are bringing into management in the region and for some new aircraft that we hope to sell”. And Hawker Pacific has the licenses to work on Hawker- Beechcraft- Cessna and Embraer Legacy aircraft- Dassault Falcons and Bell Helicopters - but it is yet unclear if the company will be offering servicing for all of these aircraft types at Skypark.

Datuk Ravindran Menon- Group Executive Director of Skypark says- “We look forward to working closely with them in this joint venture”.

Gerritt Basson- Group MD for ExecuJet- meantime remarks- “We will be working closely with Hawker Pacific on joint investment in skills and resources”. And Hawker Pacific added- “We are excited to partner with ExecuJet in Malaysia- an organization which shares our philosophy and commitment to customer service and genuine passion for the business aviation fraternity. Together we are well prepared to respond to the increasing number of business travelers coming to this vibrant region.”

First steps into India
As a first foothold into India- ExecuJet has opened a representative office in Mumbai- adjacent to the international airport- with initial activity centered around the introduction of its SimplyFly jet ownership program- and sales of the full range of Bombardier business aircraft- and the Grob spn light jet.

Indeed- Hawker Beechcraft says that India is now its third largest market after the U.S. and Brazil. As if to confirm this- BJETs - the India-based fractional and block charter provider - has ordered ten Hawker 4000 super mid-sized business jets and taken options on five more. The total value of the contract including options is around $330 million. BJETS has operations in Mumbai and Hyderbad as well as a facility in Singapore. The aircraft will be maintained by InterGlobe- the Hawker Beechcraft authorized service center in Delhi.

Jet Aviation’s Edwards says- “We are continuing to look at India where more than 100 large cabin business aircraft are due to arrive over the next three to four years. We’ve formed no specific plans or intentions yet- but once we get our business development people clear of some of the current projects- we will re-focus on some of the obvious opportunities around the globe- and India would be very high on that list.” “We clearly recognize the growing requirements from business jet owners in India for professional business jet services-” says ExecuJet’s Basson. The company plans to establish a local aircraft management division- a charter office and a full maintenance facility. The company has also opened a sales office in Beijing where it will offer a full range of business jet solutions- backed by its support offerings.

“There are 300 business jets operating in Asia Pacific so far-” Basson continued- “and the majority are privately owned- so there is plenty of opportunity for an experienced organization like ExecuJet to further bolster the number of jets flying in the region- as well as offering unrivalled ground support experience.”

The region is expected to account for 15% of global deliveries over the next five years- compared with 4% in 2007 according to Honeywell Aerospace’s latest report. “China especially- is just starting to expand with wide bodied- long haul business jets- so ExecuJet’s move into Beijing is especially well timed-” Basson concluded.

Cessna’s high-street store
As forecast in this column last quarter- Aeromil Pacific has opened its ‘The Cessna Store – Aviation by Aeromil Pacific’- the world’s first boutique aviation store- at No. 3 Spring Street in the heart of Sydney’s central business district. Aeromil Pacific Executive Chairman Steve Padgett was joined by Trevor Esling- vice president of Cessna international Sales for Citation aircraft- who flew in from London for the official opening.

The shop’s function is to create business aviation awareness by providing information to the professional community and people who want to learn more about being involved in flying and aviation. Eighty guests- who probably owned 16-17 aircraft between them- enjoyed the opening celebration which was held in the shop only a few paces from the Pitt Street financial district.

Steve Padgett explained from the store that he is rotating his staff through it so there are always experts on hand. He adds the store is already delivering what Aeromil set it up to do- and is getting interesting people through the door - some with totally unexpected questions... “A guy came in the other day and asked how he went about buying or chartering an aircraft to operate in South America on a business tour. “I’d say that we’ve got good prospects for the sale of two or three single-engined Cessnas through the shop already.” Although not through the shop Aeromil Pacific has taken orders for three Cessna Columbus aircraft- with deposits paid. Padgett also said that Mustang orders are strong at the moment- and he has a potential five-aircraft order in the pipeline. If the order matures- Padgett says his total order to date is for 16 Mustangs.

Store advisors are trained to answer all questions related to business aviation and flight training and of course they’ll only be too happy to sell you a brand new Cessna. They can tell you all about aircraft share ownership- chartering an aircraft- how to sell your existing aircraft- managing your aircraft- or advise on learning to fly with the company’s own flight training school. As Aeromil Pacific says in its advertising brochure – ‘So open the door to new horizons – call in today’.

The return of the Nomad
Another Australian icon the Nomad twin turboprop rugged STOL multi-purpose aircraft is to return to the sky- thanks to Gippsland Aeronautics Pty Ltd which has bought the aircraft’s type certificate from Boeing Australia. The sale includes technical and spares sales support and all intellectual property for the Nomad aircraft worldwide (see Business Aviation News for more information).

The aircraft is probably best remembered for its starring role in the 1980s TV series Flying Doctors- and its go-anywhere characteristics. It’s an aircraft that offers great potential for flying into remote areas- like GA’s highly successful GA-8 Airvan- it could also be a useful business/pleasure charter aircraft. It will be significantly upgraded by Gippsland- and be powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce 250-17F2 engines producing 12.5% more power than the previous Allison engines. It will have a glass cockpit and be certificated for single pliot operations.

VistaJet boosts region
And finally- another massive boost to the region was private jet company VistaJet’s announcement at EBACE that it had bought Bombardier Skyjet International’s globe-spanning charter operation and would be focusing future operations on the Asia Pacific region. This gives Salzburg-based VistaJet access to over 900 business aircraft around the world from 64 operators- of which VistaJet was one of them. The buy-out has catapulted VistaJet to the position of second largest private jet company outside North America. The company says that it is specifically planning to expand in Russia- China- India and across Asia. VistaJet’s chairman and owner Thomas Flohr is on the record as saying- “We are in a fast-consolidating industry and it’s all about scale. In Asia- for example- there is no one operator with a properly established foothold. Now VistaJet will do that.”

On the same day that VistaJet made its Skyjet announcement- at a separate press conference- the company also ordered 35 Bombardier business jets with options for 25 more- valued at $1.3 billion.

This was (for a short time) Bombardier’s largest ever order for business jets and first deliveries are planned for late 2008/early 2009.

VistaJet had an owned fleet of 30 aircraft before the announcement- so it effectively doubled its fleet size. VistaJet CEO Bing Chen said that his ‘company had already demonstrated steady and speedy growth to become the dominant force in Russia/CIS’. The company also has three Airbus ACJs on order- due for delivery in 2010. 

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