By Karen Di Piazza
This year’s European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition saw record crowds and exhibitors. EBACE, held May 20-22 at Geneva, Switzerland’s Palexpo, recorded 13,692 attendees, a 21.5 percent increase compared to last year’s attendance of 11,267. EBACE 2008 surpassed other records. More than 440 exhibitors, an all-time high, displayed their newest products and services, with 1,958 booth spaces, a 38 percent increase over 2007. More than 60 aircraft and three aircraft mock-ups were on static display at Geneva Cointrin International Airport (LSGG).
Major aircraft, avionics and engine manufacturers from the United States, as well as hundreds of aviation-related service and technology companies, attended the event.
Some of the highlights included Cirrus Design Corp., attending EBACE for the first time. The company launched Cirrus Perspective, an upgraded avionics package for its SR22-G3 piston plane with Garmin’s G1000 synthetic-vision technology, available on June 3. The upgraded cockpit, mutually developed by Cirrus and Garmin International Inc., costs $48,000. Avidyne Entegra avionics come standard on the SR22 four-place airplanes.
Meanwhile, the company announced that its single-engine, all composite “the jet” would be given a different name prior to production. Thus far, a Williams International FJ44 engine has been installed and L-3 avionics are in working order. Cirrus said it’s obtained more than 400 refundable $100,000 deposits on the aircraft. The company hopes first flight will take place in July in time for EAA AirVenture.
Honda Aircraft Company Inc. also attended EBACE for the first time. It announced that Jenson Button, Formula 1 racer, would be Honda’s European launch customer for its seven-place HondaJet. The VLJ is priced at $3.9 million, with Federal Aviation Administration certification scheduled in 2010. Following FAA certification, Honda is expected to obtain certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency. The company said three European dealers have been selected to support its aircraft, with full service and sales for its customers. TAG Aviation at Farnborough Airport (EGLF) is one of Honda’s dealers for both the United Kingdom and northern Europe.
Hawker Beechcraft Corp. launched its Premier II twin-engine jet, with seating for up to six passengers. The aircraft’s first flight is scheduled for April 2009. The jet will have a maximum flight ceiling of 45,000 feet.
Cessna Aircraft Co. announced that Russian charter operator Dexter placed an order for 20 Citation Mustang very light jets. Dexter is owned by two private Russian equity firms, Kaskol and Industrial Investors; the latter raised $10 million for AAI Acquisitions’ purchase of Adam Aircraft’s assets in Colorado, to revive the Adam 700 VLJ.
Jetalliance in Austria placed an order for 24 Citations, bringing its total order to 88 various Citations, including four new Citation Columbus jets.
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer announced that its new twin-engine, mid-light jet is officially named the Legacy 450; its new twin-engine, mid-sized jet has been named the Legacy 500. During the show, the plane maker unveiled a Legacy 500 cabin mock-up. The Legacy 500 is priced at $18.4 million and the Legacy 450 is priced at $15.25 million. The Legacy 500 is scheduled to enter service by the second half of 2012 with the 450 in the second half of 2013. The 500 is being designed for a service range of 3,000 nautical miles, seating four passengers, or a 2,800-nautical-mile range seating eight passengers. The 450’s 2,300-nautical mile range accommodates four passengers or eight passengers with a 2,200-nautical-mile range.
Switzerland-based operator VistaJet Holding SA announced it would acquire Bombardier Skyjet International’s charter unit, which has operations in Farnborough, Dubai and Hong Kong, for an undisclosed sum. It also announced firm orders for 35 business jets, with options for an additional 25 jets from Bombardier Aerospace. The aircraft order consists of 11 Challenger 605s, 13 Learjet 60 XRs and 11 of the new Learjet 85s. VistaJet said the aircraft order was the second largest in Bombardier’s history and that if it took delivery of all 25 additional planes, the order would be valued at nearly $1.2 billion.
Eclipse Aviation Corp. announced it obtained clearance from both the U.S. and Canadian governments to export its Eclipse 500 VLJ and components to Russia. With more than $100 million capital in February, mostly from Russian-backed investors through European Technology and Investment Research Center, Eclipse plans to build a production plant in Ulyanovsk. The exact location of the facility was unknown during EBACE. Etirc, Eclipse’s largest shareholder, was established in 2004 in the Netherlands and has offices in Russia, Turkey and Israel, according to its website. Roel Pieper, chairman of Etirc and chairman and CEO of Etirc Aviation, was elected as Eclipse’s non-executive board chairman.
Etirc Aviation is the exculsive distributor of the Eclipe 500 for Eastern Europe. Although the Eclipse has FAA certification, the EASA has expressed concerns about the VLJ, as the plane’s avioncs aren’t fully functional and it doesn’t yet have icing certification. Eclipse said trial flight tests for icing conditions were completed in Alaska and it’s waiting on FAA certification.
Dassault Falcon Jet Corp. in France announced 20 Falcon 2000LX orders from NetJets Europe, valued at nearly $720 million. The aircraft manufacterer said NetJets Europe will also operate 10 other six-passenger Falcon 2000LXs coming from a previous order. The combined aircraft order is valued at more than $1 billion. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308C turbofan engines, the jet has a service range of 4,000 nautical miles, reaches Mach .80 speed and is able to climb to 41,000 feet in 18 minutes. Dassault said certification for the aircraft was expected shortly, with deliveries immediately following.
From all accounts, the wow factor for luxury aircraft went to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., as its full-scale G650 cabin mock-up blew everyone’s mind. Powered by two all-new Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, the G650 will have a 7,000-nautical-mile range and fly at Mach 0.85. However, its top speed of Mach 0.925 makes the G650 the world’s fastest civil aircraft, taking the speed title away from Cessna’s Citation X, which reaches Mach 0.92. With its first flight in 2009, the G650 is slated for FAA and EASA certification in 2011 and deliveries in 2012.
Reducing fatigue on long flights, the cabin’s unique control system ensures a 4,850-foot altitude while the G650 flies at 51,000 feet. The cabin additionally promises to have fresh air all of the time without recirculation.
Abu Dhabi-based Prestige Jet announed it signed a letter of intent with Gulfstream for five G650s. The charter operator said that was the first and largest order in the Middle East for the most technologically advanced aircraft in the Gulfstream fleet. Priced at $59.5 million, which doesn’t cover the G650’s interior or paint, the aircraft can carrry 15 to 18 passengers.
A fact that U.S.-based aircraft manufactures agreed on during EBACE is that North America is no longer the place where most aircraft sales are made.