Business jet show lacked new product, order announcements

Cessna Citation Longitude test pilot

(Nov. 4, 2016)
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(Nov. 4, 2016)

To be certain, this year’s National Business Aviation Association Convention lacked the wow of new product announcements like the 2015 show had.

Nor were there any blockbuster business jet order announcements from any of the seven jet manufacturers attending the show.

And industry forecasters predicted a short-lived rough patch ahead for the industry, both for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017.

But there was still a lot of energy inside the Orange County Convention Center this week — more than 25,000 people attended — and at the static display of aircraft at Orlando Executive Airport, which numbered 114 business jets and airplanes.

NBAA officials on Friday proclaimed the Tuesday-through-Thursday show “a success by a host of measures.”

“At the convention center and the airport alike, exhibitors and attendees have told us that this year’s NBAA-BACE was a resounding success,” NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said in a statement. “The activity level was high, and the enthusiasm was strong.”

Here are four things The Eagle learned while attending this year’s show:

Brief turbulence?

Forecasters at both Honeywell Aerospace and JetNet iQ think aircraft orders and deliveries will be flat to lower until 2018, when deliveries of new jets – including Textron Aviation’s Cessna Citation Longitude and Gulfstream’s G500 – begin.

Part of the reason is the fleet of used jets on the market and their falling valuations. On one hand, cheaper used jets are steering some potential buyers away from new jets. On the other, buyers who only want to purchase new jets are holding back from purchasing right away, fearful of buying a new jet whose value could depreciate more quickly than in the past.

“It makes it hard for operators to pull the trigger and purchase new airplanes,” Wells Fargo senior analyst Sam Pearlstein said in his note to investors from NBAA.

Honeywell forecasters think 2018 and 2019 could be a robust period for orders and deliveries. But beyond 2019 they don’t know where demand is headed because of political and economic uncertainty in parts of the world.

Longitude, Hemisphere interest

Textron Aviation CEO Scott Ernest said in an interview with The Eagle at NBAA that the company has sold “several” Longitudes, the company’s $23.9 million super midsize jet.

The company introduced it with a full-scale mockup at the 2105 Las Vegas show followed by one of its flight-test jets at this year’s show.

The first flight of Textron Aviation's Citation Longitude super-midsize jet comes less than a year after the company unveiled new details for the aircraft. (Oct. 8, 2016)

“We just continue to see really good energy around it,” Ernest said of the jet the company hopes to begin delivering by late 2017. The same is true with the Hemisphere, which would be Cessna’s first entrant into the large business jet category.

In Orlando, the company brought a full-scale mockup of the $35 million Hemisphere’s cabin, which saw a steady stream of visitors at Textron’s static display. “The feedback out of the Hemisphere is just phenomenal,” Ernest said.

At the show, Textron announced Snecma and Honeywell as the suppliers to the Hemisphere’s engines and avionics. Ernest said he is confident in choosing Snecma’s Silvercrest engines to power the Hemisphere, despite Snecma’s two-year delay in developing the new engines.

“I wouldn’t have committed to it if I didn’t have that confidence level they could deliver on time and meet the expectations of what we need out of that engine and thrust, and specific fuel consumption,” Ernest said of selecting the engine maker, which announced at NBAA it has worked through its Silvercrest development problems.

Order announcements

There weren’t many.

In fact, Textron Aviation and Bombardier Business Aircraft were the only business jet makers to announce orders at the show: Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories ordered three Citation X+s and China’s Minsheng Financial Leasing Co. purchased four Bombardier Challenger 650 business jets that it will lease to Singapore-based charter company Zetta Jet.

The only other order announcement came from Italian manufacturer Piaggio Aerospace, which said it received a firm order for five Avanti Evo push-pull, twin turboprop airplanes from West Coast Aviation Services, a charter and fractional operator.

“In total, OEMs announced less orders than Hawker Beechcraft did the year it attended NBAA whilst being in Chapter 11,” Alasdair Whyte of Corporate Jet Investor wrote in an e-mail on Friday.

Worth noting

Cirrus, the Minnesota-based maker of single piston-engine airplanes and a serious competitor to Cessna’s line of Independence-built singles, announced it had received Federal Aviation Administration certification of its Vision Jet. The single-engine Vision is the company’s first jet and it has nearly 600 orders.

And GE Aviation, which is developing the Advanced Turboprop engine in eastern Europe that will power the Cessna Denali — expected to make its first flight in 2018 — announced at NBAA that a third of its first turboprop powerplant will be built using additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark