EBACE 2012: Going Global
I’m at EBACE in Geneva this week. Geneva, Switzerland, not Geneva, New York. This is the 12th annual EBACE, and it was an idea that was greeted with a huge collective yawn when the idea was broached two decades ago. The first shows were cozy affairs, small gatherings of parochial bizav concerns coming together as much out of convenience as anything.
Today EBACE is huge. It is, indeed, an absolute necessity for serious global aviation players to be there. Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream, Honda, Daher Socata, Bombardier, Piaggio, Airbus and Boeing are all there because there’s business to be won by being there and business to be lost by not attending.
That’s because the world has changed in that time. Not even a decade ago 80 percent of sales of business aircraft were to the North American market. Today, that figure is in many cases less than half. Cessna CEO Scott Ernest made a point of saying that he anticipated North American sales to be more than half of Cessna’s business in 2012, as though that were a surprising development. In a way, it is.
The shape of business aviation has changed, because the face of business has changed. In the light of the vital economic engine that is EBACE, it comes across as a quaint notion that we can in any way be islands of national interest. Indeed, the kinds of protection commonly preached and practiced a couple of decades ago are commonly seen by the folks in global business aviation as being counterproductive, even when it’s their own countries practices in question.
The competition between Hawker Beechcraft and Embraer for the LAS contract is a case in point. The argument quickly turned into one of which company is more American, with both making good arguments in their favor. The bottom line, clearly, was that no major aircraft maker today can be anything but a global company. As unpopular a fact as this might be, the truth is, Cessna is embracing the Chinese market because it’s good for business and what’s good for business is good for Cessna, which is good for Wichita and good for America.
Moreover, if Cessna doesn’t do it, somebody else will. The business is there to win or lose, and not participating is losing. The same is true for Gulfstream, Hawker Beechcraft, Embraer, Dassault and anybody else who wants to be a real player, and all of the aforementioned companies are in the thick of the sea change.
After all, airplanes are all about overcoming geographical barriers. Companies that are serious about making an impact in Europe, Asia, Brazil, China, India and beyond, understand that airplanes help them get business done in ways that their ground-bound and airline-bound competitors can’t. EBACE is a celebration of that fact.
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