Resurgent EBACE Points to Signs of a Turnaround

EBACE 2011 Erika Freber/NBAA

Industry leaders hailed the strong turnout for the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva this week as an indicator that the market may indeed finally by turning a corner after more than two and half years of decline.

"Cautiously optimistic," was how several top executives put it when describing their prospects for boosting aircraft sales now that the worst of the financial crisis appears to be over and corporate profits are again on the rise. Gulfstream president Joe Lombardo pointed to a backlog of nearly $18 billion and an order rate that is exceeding deliveries as hopeful signs that the market will again begin a sustained period of growth. The large-cabin Gulfstream G650, he added, could face certification delays after the April 2 crash of one of the flight test airplanes in New Mexico, but he said that there remained a good possibility that the model would still earn its FAA papers by the end of this year.

Cessna also offered a generally positive assessment of the market looking ahead, but the company offered no clues as to who would replace outgoing president, chairman and CEO Jack Pelton, who abruptly retired on May 2. Embraer, meanwhile, pointed to a sharp rise in corporate earnings in the first quarter of 2011 as an encouraging sign that increased sales and deliveries of new business jets would eventually follow, albeit initially at a slow pace. Dassault Aviation was the only manufacturer to launch a new model, the super-midsize Falcon 2000S, while also throwing its firm commitment behind the SMS, another super-midsize model in the Falcon pipeline.

Hawker Beechcraft announced a retrofit program for the Hawker 750 to bring winglets to the model, and said it has opened the order book for the Hawker 400XPR, a $2.64 million avionics, engines and winglets upgrade for older Hawker 400s. Bombardier, finally, rebranded its Global Express XRS as the Global 6000 to align its large-cabin family of ultra-long-range jets spanning the Global 5000 through 8000. EBACE organizers said more than 12,000 people attended the show from May 17-20, making the event the second strongest EBACE ever. The show included 484 exhibitors and 62 aircraft on static display.


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