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September is a busy month for business aviation in the Asia-Pacific region- with two major international events taking place within a couple of weeks of each other. First is the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress in Hong Kong on the 8-10 September- followed by the MillionaireAsia Private Aviation Show in Singapore 23-24 September- scheduled to coincide with Singapore’s F1 Grand Prix weekend.For the first time- the Asian Aerospace event has the added backing of ...

Mike Vines   |   1st September 2009
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September is a busy month for business aviation in the Asia-Pacific region- with two major international events taking place within a couple of weeks of each other. First is the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress in Hong Kong on the 8-10 September- followed by the MillionaireAsia Private Aviation Show in Singapore 23-24 September- scheduled to coincide with Singapore’s F1 Grand Prix weekend.

For the first time- the Asian Aerospace event has the added backing of the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA). This comes after the annual ABACE (Asian Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition) run jointly with the NBAA was suddenly cancelled late last year. An added problem of the cancellation was that AsBAA’s widely-spread membership needs to meet somewhere in the region for their AGM. This has been re-arranged to occur in Hong Kong on September 7- the day before Asian Aerospace convenes- and is open to everyone interested in supporting business aviation in the region according to AsBAA.

“The Asian business aviation climate is feeling the pinch-” explained a spokesman for the AsBAA. “Operators that we’ve polled report slower charter business than the past two quarters- perhaps longer. Manufacturers report that new aircraft orders are being delayed- and in some cases cancelled altogether. Across the region access to new funding is putting some hangar and executive terminal projects on hold.”

Despite the current financial climate- though- the OEMs are taking the event very seriously. Airbus will fly an A318 Elite to Asian Aerospace- Bombardier a Global Express XRS- Challenger 605 and Challenger 850- while Dassault’s Falcon 7X will make its Asian debut. Embraer will have a Legacy 600 in attendance- and Gulfstream will have the largest contingent with a G150- G200- G450- G500 and a G550 supplied by Jet Aviation. At the time of press- it was still hoped that both Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft would join the static aircraft line-up.

Hong Kong resident Metrojet will be at the show- as will Lufthansa Technik- and Avinode with its on-line business aviation solutions. Asian Aerospace will host forums- where representatives from local civil aviation departments will discuss airspace development- airport access and fee structures around the region- and industry speakers representing finance- insurance- aircraft acquisition and infrastructure will address challenges facing business aviation during the global financial downturn.

The MillionaireAsia Private Aviation Show- a lifestyle event for those with hefty bank balances- is organized by the MillionaireAsia publication- and backed by the AsBAA- however- this event is by invitation only.

A leading- but un-named Chinese aircraft leasing company has recently ordered its first aircraft- a new Gulfstream G450 through London- UK-based business and general aviation consultant David Tang who has been appointed as its aviation consultant- and the same client has also signed up a further G550. The G450 will be delivered in late September or early October 2009 and Tang will attend the factory to take delivery and fly it back to Beijing.

According to Tang- his client (details of whom Tang will be able to disclose shortly) intends to have ten aircraft within two years. “We’re talking aircraft up to Gulfstream size- and they will initially be operated and maintained by Deer Jet Airlines of China- a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines Group-” he revealed. “Once the fleet has built up- we can then talk about hiring our own crews and engineering maintenance base.”

Tang says his Chinese clientele want to promote the opening up of general aviation in China. “They want the same ease of operation that we have here – they just want to turn-up and go!” And he says this is starting to happen with the most recent change on the statute books which came into being on 1 July. For the first time Governors of all 34 Provinces can apply for new airports to be built in their regions- a complete reversal of previous law when everything came down from central government in Beijing.

He explains seven days advance notice is still sometimes required to fly across China- but if the authorities don’t open up business aviation access- it could even slow industrial expansion. “You can fly Beijing to Shanghai no problem- but if you want to travel from one small city to another the only way at present might be by road. This could take 12 hours- but in a helicopter it would only take an hour or so.”

The first Global 5000 business jet to be based on mainland China was delivered to Beijing-based Reignwood Group in July. The company- founded in 1984- is a leading brand in property operation and management- mining- culture- sports and beverages.

At the Paris Air Show in June Mrs. Susi Pudjiastuti- the Founder and President of Indonesia’s Susi Air- announced her first Piaggio Avanti II order with options for a further two. This makes Susi Air the first Indonesian operator of the type - and delivery of the first aircraft was due straight after the show.

Mrs. Pudjiastuti said- “The Piaggio aircraft will allow us to enter new and longer routes and offer our VIP costumers a new option at the lowest possible cost. We feel the Avanti II is the ideal aircraft for all our different applications. Indonesia still has strong economic growth- with regional centers becoming more important for business- so requiring more travel by business and government in a country larger than Europe.

“From Jakarta the Avanti II can reach 90% of Indonesia's population non-stop- and even the longest distance of 3.800km to the farthest islands can be flown with one quick fuel stop-” she added.

Pudjiastuti’s company- which operates scheduled and charter services from four bases in Indonesia already has a fleet of ten Cessna Grand Caravans- and another 30 were ordered at Le Bourget. The growth of this company has been nothing short of phenomenal with its first two aircraft- both Grand Caravans- becoming operational in early December 2004- just before the disastrous Tsunami struck the region on December 26- when the fledgling company was very involved in relief operations.

The company based at Pangandaran- West Java was established by husband and wife team Christian von Strombeck and Susi Pudjiastuti- and initially set-up to transport fisheries cargo for sister company PT ASI Pudjiastuti. It is now the largest private aircraft operator in Indonesia and in the process of “establishing a world class flight training centre in Indonesia”.

“The result of India’s general election- together with India’s resilience to the world-wide recession- is going to be good for business aviation here-” predicts Nigel Harwood CEO of Delhi-based InterGlobe General Aviation Private Limited- an authorized Hawker Beechcraft Sales and Service Center. He adds political stability has translated into many more phone calls and much more interest in corporate aviation.

“As an example- companies that we had been talking to over the last 18 months- but who couldn’t decide on aircraft acquisition- have now come back to the table asking ‘when can I take an aircraft?’ It’s been a remarkable turn-around- and although the general election result was very important- it’s the Government’s management of the recession that has improved confidence in the corporate world.

“It will probably take between three and six months to actually get contracts signed- but at least the interest is there. We hope we can close two or three deals within the next six weeks- and before year-end we’d like to have another couple closed out.”

Aircraft financing is still a factor affecting aircraft sales says Harwood. “It has to come back quickly as we’re still seeing a great deal of reluctance to finance. Up until nine months ago financing was readily available- then a stop was put on it - we are- however- seeing a more relaxed approach again.”

Now the election is over State Governments are able to take decisions on ordering replacement business aircraft and are issuing tenders or requests for bids- he commented. “Hawker Beechcraft has always been hugely successful in supplying corporate aircraft at State Government level and is seeing renewed interest from around four of them.

“Most of them currently operate aircraft which are typically Beechcraft C90 and B200 models. But a month ago we delivered a Hawker 900XP to the Uttar Predesh Government. We’ve got another couple of Governments which are looking at Hawkers- upgrading from turboprops.”

He says another factor holding back aircraft sales for private owners is the 30% plus import duty- which has been reduced slightly. “But it is a hindrance and we hoped in the recent budget that it would be either reduced further or totally removed. The Business Aviation Association for India (BAAI) which includes business aviation suppliers- vendors and customers- continues to lobby for a further reduction of the tax.

The Singapore Flying College (SFC) has ordered five Cessna Citation Mustangs through Aeromil Pacific- the exclusive distributor for Cessna Citation aircraft in Australia and New Zealand. The Mustangs will form the future of advanced training at the college- replacing its four existing Learjet 45s- and will be delivered over the next three years- with the first due at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Airport by early 2010.

SFC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines- and has a substantial advanced training facility on the Sunshine Coast Airport in Australia- currently operating four aircraft- two simulators and a college campus (producing up to 200 graduates each year). Aeromil Pacific already provides maintenance and other support elements for the College and will further develop its Citation service capabilities in Queensland later in 2009. “We’ll have two very capable service centers- at Bankstown- Sydney and here in Queensland-” said Steve Padget- MD- Aeromil.

Although the Mustangs will be used exclusively as training aircraft by SFC- Padget says that the good news for prospective Mustang owners and existing operators is that from mid-2010 SFC’s Level D Sims will be available for training- and Aeromil Pacific will be promoting this on SFC’s behalf.

There are now five Mustangs in service in Australia and New Zealand- with six more deliveries scheduled over the next eighteen months- including the five SFC Mustangs. The first Mustang (VH-EJT) to be based in Perth was delivered in July- and is the first in the region equipped with new Garmin G1000 glass flight deck Synthetic Vision Technology. The aircraft will be available for charter by Maxem Aviation at Perth Airport. Padget says that further strong interest from prospective clients could get his Mustang total deliveries/orders nearer to 20 by the end of 2010.

Captain Phil Laffer- Aeromil Pacific’s Director of Flight Operations- said on delivering the Mustang from the United States- “the aircraft performed beyond expectations- and the SVT technology provides exceptional situational awareness in IMC conditions. The systems are easy to operate- the handling characteristics are superb- the low fuel burns and takeoff and landing performance are unbelievable.”

When asked if Aeromil Pacific had received any Cessna cancellations over the last few months- Padget said- “We’ve had some people moving their delivery positions back- but only a couple of cancellations. To counteract that we actually sold three extra aircraft because of availability.” (Two were new - a Citation Sovereign and a Mustang- the other a pre-owned Cessna factory prepared Citation X).

“My feeling from this part of the world is that business aviation is bouncing and if anything- it’s bouncing up! I wouldn’t say things are fantastic- but I can certainly say- in our view and as far as Cessna is concerned- it’s quite good and we’re confident of the future. Operations generally may have slowed a little but not dramatically. In Australia people really use their airplanes; there are also a lot of semi-government aircraft such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service which will always keep going.”

Padget is excited about the first and imminent Australian arrival of a Cessna ‘No Worries’ aircraft- which he says demonstrates how good Cessna’s ‘No Worries’ guaranteed pre-owned program is. It is a 1996 Citation Ultra- fitted out as a Medevac aircraft. “It will sell for around $3 million - its got new paint- new interior- and zero time engines- and is a superb example of how Cessna refurbishes its pre-owned airplanes-” he enthused.

Thailand Update
JSSI (Jet Support Services- Inc.) the only independent provider of hourly cost maintenance programs for aircraft engines and airframes has opened an office in Bangkok- headed by JSSI Asia business development manager Ellis Mckeown- who operates out of the Orient Sky office.

“Our operations only started here on July 1- and it is new ground for JSSI-” he explained- adding that JSSI already had eight aircraft signed up on various programs in India- Malaysia- Singapore- Hong Kong and China before he arrived.

According to Mckeown- there is plenty of potential with a fleet of around 500 business/corporate aircraft in the region. “I don’t see any great impact our competitors have made in this field out here- but I’m certain we will-” he said. “I’m already getting plenty of interest. If we could sign 20% of those 500 within the next two years we would be very happy.”

On the general atmosphere in the region Mckeown adds- “China isn’t hurting as much as most places around the world- but I would say that a good safe bet is that 35-40% of the region’s fleet are not flying compared with 16-18 months ago. There are too many aircraft just sitting and not operating. Everyone has had to make adjustments. But by the end of this year- and certainly by the beginning of 2010- we’re going to see some real positive things here.”

More from the Region
Cessna authorized sales representative The Japan Aerospace Corporation has received an order for a Citation Sovereign from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)- the Japanese equivalent of NASA. It will be modified and used for aircraft performance and aerodynamic research says Roger Whyte- Cessna’s senior vice president- sales and marketing.

Finally- a private Asian customer has placed a firm order for an Airbus A320 Prestige- the first to order the type in the region. The Prestige is based on the A320 airliner- but features a customized luxury cabin- and extra fuel-tanks for intercontinental range.

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