Executive aviation comes of age at FIDAE 2012
|Monday 9 July 2012||Text by Carlos Ay under General aviation|
FIDAE 2012 was probably the first edition of the fair where civil aviation exhibitions took a lead over their military counterparts. Fiscal realities throughout the World and a relative shortage of Chilean military acquisition programmes left the gates open for something short of a flood of civilian exhibitions to steal the show from the green fatigues (or should we say “low-viz grey”?) customers and suppliers dominating the sixteen previous editions. And while most of the media attention focused on the largest and most prominent aircraft on display (namely, Airbus 400M, Airbus 380 and Boeing 787), a large number of executive and general aviation exhibits discreetly filled the static and in-flight areas while their sales and marketing executives entered promising conversations or negotiations with regional customers, many times landing letters of intent or outright sale contracts. Not in vain, as it will be described below, most of the 37 aircraft sold, reserved or purportedly traded at the show belonged in this category.
In a testimony of Chilean business evolution, another distinguishing feature to the executive and general aviation sector at FIDAE 2012 was that most of the exhibitions were dominated by Chilean companies (or local subsidiaries from foreign corporations) rather than overseas manufacturers. This is said to be a result of increasing interest by Chilean multinationals to purchase executive transport and utility aircraft and helicopters to help them improve control over increasingly dispersed regional business operations as Chilean business interests extend throughout the Americas, Europe and the Far East. Purportedly, the Chilean civil aviation market continues to grow steeply and has recently demonstrated the capacity to take on new participants. All things said, executive and general aviation firms present at FIDAE 2012 were segmented in three distinct configurations: A number of so-called local “aviation natives” (e.g. Aerocardal and Aeroservicio), a limited number of local subsidiaries or affiliates from foreign suppliers and manufacturers (e.g. Eurocopter Chile and Eagle Copters) and a number of aviation branches formed by larger Chilean business groups (e.g. Matetic Group’s Aviasur).
Natives dominate the business segment
One of the Chilean “aviation natives” at the show, Aerocardal was promoting the complete set of services in their mission statement (charter, executive and aero medical flights, FBO services and aircraft maintenance services) as well as demonstrating products from their represented companies, Embraer and Cirrus. Their static display included a Dornier 328 feeder airliner operated in charter services and a Cirrus SR-22 Turbo fitted with a belly-mounted police surveillance pod. The Brazilian manufacturer in turn contributed with two demonstrators in their very light jets series: a 4-seat Phenom 100 and (new at FIDAE 2012) a 6-seat Phenom 300. In addition to flying prospective Phenom customers throughout the show, Embraer gave a type-related press conference on Tuesday 27 March. According to Carlos Riederer, Aerocardal sales and marketing manager, company goals were fulfilled because they managed to make themselves “known as the exclusive representatives for Embraer and Cirrus” and this was underscored by the sale of three aircraft at the fair (two Cirrus SR-22 and one SR-22 Turbo).
Promoting a variety of products from their represented manufacturers, Hawker Beechcraft, AgustaWestland and Diamond Aircraft, was Aviasur. They had probably the largest of the outdoors displays, featuring AgustaWestland AW-109S Grand New and AW-119Ke Koala Enhanced helicopters, Hawker Beech 400XP and 4000 business jets, Beech Baron G58 and Bonanza G36 piston-engined classics (naturally updated with modern technologies) and the three King Air models described in previous stories (¿Live Long, King Air? and King Air vigilantes in FIDAE 2012) . This huge display was no coincidence, as Matetic group’s two-year old venture was attending FIDAE 2012 looking to “promote our brand, products and services in the national market” as well as attempting to “generate contacts with future customers and nail down sales with current customers”, as stated by Piston & Turboprops Sales Manager, Juan Pablo Romero. In addition, he said that all “commercial and marketing goals for the year were attained”; and this was underscored by the signing of a contract for the acquisition of two Diamond DA20-C1 Eclipse by the Santiago de Chile Flying Club, which will use them to start updating their basic training fleet.
A further two brands were being promoted in FIDAE 2012 by two associated firms. Andes Santiago Service, the Chilean agent for Gulfstream Aerospace, was exhibiting a G-450, defined by its manufacturer as a “complete upgrade” to the Gulfstream IV capable to fly 8,056 km with a typical load of 8 passengers cruising at Mach 0.80. The aircraft featured advanced flight control information technologies, including Plane View glass cockpit displays and Enhanced Vision System’s situational awareness tools, and could be personalized in one of six select interior configurations featuring abundant natural light, fresh air and soundproofing systems. Even though Gulfstream declined to discuss sales or business leads at the show, Heidi A. Fedak, Senior Manager/Social Media and External Communications at Gulfstream, confirmed FIDAE 2012 had helped them reach their goals “to forge relationships with new customers, enhance relationships with existing customers and demonstrate the technology advancements, reliability and safety of Gulfstream aircraft”.
Newcomers and novelties
Associated to the company above, Techdeso was appearing at FIDAE for the first time after being incorporated in 2011 to act as the Chilean global service partner for Pilatus Business Aircraft. These companies were showing a PC-12NG, the large single-engine, turbine-powered business aircraft whose low acquisition and operating costs and versatility promise “considerable demand from the corporate, utility and aero medical market segments” in Chile, as anticipated by Techdeso’s Commercial Manager, Wilfrid Holmes. Boosting this forecast, Tom Aniello, Marketing Vice President for the Swiss manufacturer’s American subsidiary, said “we see Chile and the rest of South America to be a very important future market for Pilatus Aircraft”. Furthermore, he said “this year’s show was very productive for us, as we were able to show our aircraft to a wide range of prospects in a short period of time” by arranging “several demonstration flights with prospects both before and after the show”. Even though they do not typically close sales at trade shows, Aniello stated they were “very encouraged by the interest shown in Pilatus aircraft by show attendees”.
Eagle Copters, the helicopter specialists from Chicureo airfield North of Santiago, were showing a selection of products from their represented rotary wings partners: A Bell 206 JetRanger III and two Robinson four-seaters: A piston-engined R-44 Raven II and a turbine-powered R-66 Turbo. While the JetRanger was a classic example of the long-lived Model 206 series, the two Robinsons represented the top models in their product range: The Raven II featured Lycoming IO-540 fuel-injected engine and standard 28 volt electrical system ensuring good starting conditions in hot or cold weather while the Rolls-Royce RR300-powered Turbo offered increased reserve power and altitude performance, a fifth seat and a large baggage compartment. Bell Helicopter themselves were repeating their 2010 presentation of the Model 429, the high-end twin proposed by the North American manufacturer for service in the corporate, emergency medical services, oil & gas and parapublic sectors. In a slight departure from their rotary wing focus, Eagle Copters were appointed as Chilean agents for Piper Aircraft and were thus promoting the Archer LX, one of three siblings presently in production in the 50-year Cherokee dynasty.
Probably the dean of all Chilean companies at the show, Aeroservicio was promoting a variety of products in the Cessna Citation menu. At the lowest end of the product range was a Citation Mustang, the single-pilot-certified very light jet seating up to four passengers cruising at 630 km/h to a range of 2,130 km. The aircraft on display featured High Sierra Edition paint scheme, luxurious interiors and Garmin G1000 avionics suite. Next was the new CitationJet 4, accommodating 8 or 9 passengers in a cabin featuring advanced climate-control and entertainment systems and cruising at 835 km/h for a range of 3,574 km. At the top of the range was the latest evolution in Cessna’s most popular jet, the Citation Excel, which was being advertised as a 9-to-12-seater with a 3,440 km range incorporating and impressive array of enhancements in avionics, digital engine controls, cockpit management and aerodynamics. In addition, Cessna and AeroSantaMaría flying school, from Los Andes in Central Chile, signed a follow-on contract for the acquisition of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk XP fitted with Garmin 100 glass cockpit. Scheduled to be delivered in June 2012, the aircraft was the fourth of the type to enter service with the flight training component of Federico Santa María University’s Aeronautical Sciences Academy (the other three were exhibited in FIDAE 2010).
Foreign approaches to the Chilean market
The most prominent foreign general aviation exhibitor at FIDAE 2012 was undoubtedly Eurocopter. The consortium was harvesting the seeds of a strategic move made in 2001, when a Chilean subsidiary was created to cater for clients in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay. Growing from 10 to 100 employees throughout the decade, the company conquered a healthy 50% of the civil and parapublic market in its target nations; adding more than 70 customers and selling and servicing close to 300 helicopters (130 of them in Chilean hands). As anticipated in our last show preview (see ¡FIDAE 2012 “on short final”!), Eurocopter’s civil offering focused on the most recent variants of the AS350 Ecureuil, AS365 Dauphin, EC130 Colibri and EC135, with several examples on display both flying and statically. The company also was actively engaging its established customer base by organizing an Ecureuil operators event on 29 March and presenting special awards to off-shore, high-altitude and medical emergency operators in the region. Wrapping up a successful appearance at the show, contracts and letters of intent were signed for 11 Eurocopters (3+1 AS-350B3, 0+3 EC-130T2, 1+2 EC-145, 1+0 EC-155B1).
A comparable, yet more conservative, approach was demonstrated by Australian manufacturer GippsAERO, presently under the corporate umbrella of Indian industrial giant Mahindra. The company, which has shown its products in FIDAE since at least 2006, was back in Santiago “with a view to expand our dealer network in South America and also promote the GA8 Airvan to commercial and defence organizations”, said Mark McNamara, Marketing Manager for the company. In fact, the company said on a 27 March press released that they were inviting “dealers with [a] strong history of sales, preferably with maintenance facilities and a reputation for excellent customer service, to apply for dealership status”. GippsAERO was also celebrating (and exhibiting) their first GA8 to be registered in Chile by Aero Servicios Toqui, a Temuco-based air taxi operator offering services along the Chilean coast. And though their primary goal was not attained during the fair, McNamara said they had “some very good negotiations underway with potential dealers as a result of the air show”.
At the most conservative end of the spectrum were a number of foreign exhibitors exploring FIDAE 2012 as a platform to promote their products and services to the Chilean and regional markets. AgSur, the regional agent for Air Tractor, was promoting their full range of aircraft for a variety of civil and military applications; yet focusing on the 7.257 kg, turbine-powered AT-802, of which two examples were present in Santiago. The remainder of the manufacturers in our review attended the show on their own: Bombardier Aerospace was displaying two of its light and medium-sized business jets, a Learjet 45XR and a Challenger 300, while Daher Socata was introducing the Elite version of the TBM 850 executive/utility transport, which was expected to attract new customers in South America. According to Nicolas Chabbert, Senior Vice-President for the French group’s Airplane Division, the sub-continent “represented 10 per cent of our sales and 25 TBM 700s/TBM 850s are now based in the region”. Though they were showing only scale model aircraft at the fair, Russian Helicopters were celebrating delivery of a Ka-32A11BC coaxial cargo helicopter to Brazil’s Helipark Taxi Aéreo, their first civil customer in the region, which plans to use it for commercial transportation of industrial cargo to inaccessible areas of the Amazon basin.
Rounding up the aircraft display was a limited number of local general aviation operators. The largest fleet belonged to long-time FIDAE exhibitor, the Santiago de Chile Flying Club, which has supported the show throughout the years and was showing a Cessna 172, a T-34A Mentor, a Vans RV9 and a Varga 2150. Promoting their forestry protection and development initiatives and programmes, The Chilean National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) was showing a striking yellow fire-fighting PZL Swidnik W-3A Sokol. Delivered about two years ago in a highly exposed purchase programme, the helicopter has proved its worth in a number of recent forest fire fighting campaigns in Southern Chile. Hot air balloons operator Visión Austral was at the fair ground on Tuesday 27 March to show their Cameron DP-90 with advertising banners for Israel Aircraft Industries and FIDAE 2012. Last, yet more remarkable, was the presence of a Flight Service Helicópteros Bell UH-1H Huey recently fitted with a FastFin system, “a vertical fin modification that improves airflow to make tail rotor management easier, safer, more efficient, and more productive”, as marketed by manufacturer BLR Aerospace.
All interviewed exhibitors evaluated the show positively. CONAF, for instance, was satisfied that their outdoor exhibition was “widely visited by both aviation industry personnel and the general public”. GippsAERO’s McNamara, in turn, was “impressed by the variety of the operators that attended” and defined the show as “very well organized”. These favourable comments could just as well be a result of the show’s business generating power: As detailed earlier, and confirmed by official FIDAE figures, 9 out of 15 aircraft sold and 6 out of 8 aircraft reserved at the show belonged in this category (regrettably, no details were available on 14 further, yet unconfirmed, operations). And while a few of our media contacts thought it premature to answer our question, several others said they will be coming back in 2014: Aerocardal’s Riederer said they will “of course return to the next FIDAE”, Pilatus’ Aniello said “we plan to return” and Aviasur’s Romero was emphatic by stating “our attendance […] is confirmed”. And GippsAERO’s McNamara went a step further by forecasting their attendance as well as anticipating products to be shown at FIDAE 2014: “We will continue to work to develop our network in the next eighteen months and hope to come to FIDAE with new dealers and a new aircraft, the GA10, which is currently undergoing certification testing”.
Sources: Aerocardal (official), Aeroservicio (official), AgSur Aviones (official), Aviasur (official), Bell Helicopter (official), BLR Aerospace (official), Bombardier (official), Carlos Ordóñez, Cessna (official), CONAF (official), Daher (official), DGAC Chile (official), EDEFA/Defensa, El Mercurio, Embraer Executive Jets (official), Flight Service (official), Gippsland Aeronautics (official), Gulfstream Aerospace (official), Landings, Pilatus (official), Robinson Helicopter Co. (official), Russian Helicopters (official) and Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María/Santiago Campus (official).