Asian Aerospace 2011 - first news

Added on 07 March 2011 by Tim Robinson

A report of the first news from the Asian Aerospace 2011 exhibition held in Hong Kong.
While the exhibition is yet to start officially until tomorrow (8 March) a couple of aerospace companies decided to beat the rush and hold-pre show briefings to engage the media’s full attention.

Airbus for example gave two press briefings – one on the Asia- Pacific market and another on its corporate jet business – where a new cabin outfitter was announced.

Its not a duopoly anymore

A380 China Southern

Airbus predicts Asia-Pacific carriers will require some 780 very large aircraft like the A380 over the next 20 years. (Airbus)

In its first media briefing given by Christopher Emerson, SVP Head of Product Strategy and Market Forecasts, he said that Airbus research shows that Asia-Pacific would need some 8,560 new aircraft over the next 20 years – with a total value topping $1.2trillion. Significantly he also drew attention to the fact that the ‘end of the duoploy’ was here – with Canada, Russia and of course China all fielding new entrants – making estimates more complex.

Another complicating factor for predictions was oil. Though the recovery signs were good and graphs showed movement in the right direction (world passenger traffic in January was up 7.4%, with traffic in Asia-Pacific itself up 8.5%) the uncertainty in the Middle East mean that fuel prices are an important factor. This Emerson believes benefits Airbus by putting pressure on airlines to retire older less-efficient fuel-guzzling types and replace them with new efficient aircraft like the A320neo (described in the press handout as a ‘natural fuel hedge’).

Emerson also admitted that the demand for short-haul aircraft in China, could be affected by the development of high-speedrail links connecting megacities. However he refused to be drawn on the question of whether both Airbus and Boeing would lose ground to the COMAC C919 if Chinese carriers have to buy it –saying it was a question for COMAC themselves.

TAECO becomes first Asian Airbus VIP cabin outfitter

Phoenix Concept (airbus)

The Phoenix VIP interior from Airbus is aimed at the Asian market. (Airbus)

In a separate announcement, it was revealed that Xiamen-based MRO provider TAECO would become the eighth Airbus VIP cabin outfitter and the first one in Asia. TAECO already has extensive experience in airline cabin modifications and upgrades – but this new cabin outfitting capability adds design engineering capability and approvals.  Though the focus initially is on Airbus’ narrowbody product range  - ‘in theory’ in the future it could expand to other types. Another advantage notes Airbus of TAECO’s heavy maintenance background is very often cabin upgrades will be synchronized with other maintenance work – making TAECO into a one-stop shop for cabin and MRO work.

Meanwhile Airbus is already thinking ahead in adapting its designs and ideas to the Asian VIP market to better sell its Airbus Corporate Jets. A cabin concept called ‘Phoenix’ featured lots of red (a lucky colour in Asia) a round table for the family to play cards or games, and even a karaoke machine – so entrepreneurs can belt out Elvis hits at 36,000ft. Though this last feature sounds like a gimmick – Airbus revealed they have already sold a jet with such a system installed. Next up - a VIP cabin concept with dual Guitar Hero set-ups?

Despite this – rumours of a big A380 announcement tomorrow with Hainan Airlines now seem to be false. Airbus PR staff first said they were not going to the press conference, which was to involve not only Airbus but Boeing as well as Gulfstream and Dassault. Later the official line was ‘Airbus declined to comment’. Look for more information on this soon.

Embraer aims at Chinese market with 650 

Legacy 650 cabin

Embraer say the bigger bizjets with ample space - like this Legacy 650 are the perferred option at the moment for Chinese business aviation customers.

Not to be outdone Embraer too was promoting its executive jets and had brought along a Legacy 650 bizjet to display on the static line. One selling point, claims Embraer is that with three cabin zones the 650 has 30% lower direct operating costs than the three-zone Gulfstream – putting it on a par with jets like the Dassault Falcon 2000EX and Bombardier Challenger 605 with two cabin zones.

Embraer’s strategy – to become a major player in business aviation by 2015, it had ‘completed in 2011’ – with last year the Phenom 100 becoming the most delivered bizjet in 2010.

So what were the differences in the Chinese business aviation market – compared to others?– I asked Guan Dong Yuan President, Embraer China. Not much he said– Chinese customers want the same as other customers around the world. However he did concede that at the moment the larger aircraft such as Legacy 650 (three sold) and Lineage (one sold) was the hottest part of the Chinese business aviation market. But as time went on, he said that he expects smaller bizjets too to increase in popularity.

And finally…

Legacy 650

Busy airport, packed ramp - try taking a pic and NOT getting another aircraft in the background

Those worried that business aviation may the weakest link in combating international aviation terrorism have no concerns over the hyper-vigilance of Hong Kong airport security staff. Despite two badges, business cards, passports and a list of names, journalists and their minders were firmly but politely declined entrance to the static park for an official media tour of a swanky bizjet. Eventually they were satisfied with the credentials and said aviation journalists were let in – with the proviso that they not take photos of any other aircraft else – but the bizjet in question – a difficult task given it was parked in a packed business aviation centre on one of the world’s busiest airports. One hopes that security will not be quite so strict tomorrow – otherwise the staff may have the hands full confiscating cameras.

Watch out for further reports on Asian Aerospace on aerosocietychannel and follow the Editor @RAeSTimR on Twitter for all the latest news.

from the Royal Aeronautical Society

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