Europe business jet show yields new products, but no big orders

The biggest business jet show in Europe wrapped up Thursday with new product announcements from Wichita’s business jet makers, but largely absent of order announcements.

At the three-day-long European Business Aviation Convention and Exposition in Geneva, Switzerland, Bombardier Learjet said it would produce a new pocket door for its Learjet 70 and 75 light jets to reduce cabin noise, while Textron Aviation released details and images for its new single-engine turboprop.

Those details included that it would produce the $4.5 million airplane at the Textron Aviation East Campus Plant IV, near Central and Greenwich.

However, as order announcements go, there were none from Learjet — although there was one from its parent, Bombardier Business Aircraft, for its larger and non-Wichita-built Global 6000 jet — but there was one from Textron Aviation, for a pre-owned super midsize Cessna Citation Sovereign that will be delivered in June to Hahn Air in Germany.

Textron Aviation spokeswoman Rosa Lee Argotsinger said in an e-mail Friday that the company was accepting letters of intent to purchase its new turboprop “but are unable to comment on specific numbers.”

As for significant order announcements at EBACE, that was left to Brazilian jetmaker Embraer — Textron Aviation’s fiercest competitor. Embraer said it signed a firm order with Mexico’s Servicios Aereos Across for 23 business jets in a deal valued at more than $260 million at list prices. The order included eight Legacy 500, eight Phenom 300 and seven Phenom 100E jets, Embraer said.

Lost opportunity?

Across’ current fleet also comprises several Cessna aircraft, including Citation Mustangs, Sovereigns and Caravans, according to its website.

Argotsinger said in the e-mail that Textron Aviation didn’t view the Embraer deal as a lost opportunity, especially because Across signed on as a distributor for Embraer in February.

“We were already well represented in this region with a partner that shares our commitment to outstanding customer service and support,” she said. “We continue on the path of new product innovation that will help us remain market leaders in business aviation,” citing the Citation Longitude — scheduled for first flight this summer — as an example of its new products.

Richard Aboulafia, Teal Group vice president of analysis, also downplayed the Embraer deal, suggesting Across may be buying some or all of the new jets for inventory it will sell as a distributor.

But, Aboulafia added, the competition between Embraer and Textron Aviation is real. And Embraer is making inroads in small and midsize business jet sales.

“Evidence that it’s very much coming down to Cessna versus Embraer,” he said. “Embraer has gobbled up pretty much all of Hawker’s market share and maybe some of Learjet’s.”

Aboulafia also noted that order announcements at shows like EBACE and the National Business Aviation Association show aren’t the norm, with the exception of an aircraft fractional ownership company placing a big order.

“It’s not like a big commercial jetliner show” such as the Farnborough or Paris air shows, he said. “The real bulk of business jets sales are out of sight, quietly taking place behind the scenes.”

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark