Business aviation: 2018 end-of-year review

Discover the events, launches and reports that shaped a buoyant year for the bizav sector

Following some tough years after the 2008 financial crisis, business aviation is on the up. At the end of last year, figures released by the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) showed that business aviation traffic in Europe had shown a full 12 months of uninterrupted growth, for the first time since the economic recession a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, over in the US, our strongest market, industry analysts hoped that anticipated tax reforms would ‘spur more business aircraft sales’.

So how did 2018 fare? The consensus seems to be that the sector, while still facing some challenges, remains on an upward trajectory.

Here’s how the year unfolded.

January

2018 kicks off in buoyant fashion as optimism across the business aviation industry continues to rise. At the tail end of 2017, the final UBS Business Jet Market Index of the year was 53, 10% higher than the previous survey.

February

Business aviation connectivity provider, Satcom Direct (SD), celebrates 20 years of partnership with Inmarsat. The anniversary is marked at SD’s annual Connecting with Customers event in Texas, where Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce presents SD President David Greenhill with a framed copy of the original licence. To this day, SD remains Inmarsat’s largest aeronautical service provider.

Rupert Pearce presented a framed version of the original license to one of SD’s founders David Greenhill

March

Honeywell launches the innovative GoDirect™ Router to complement its existing range of Connected Aircraft offerings. Thanks to its size (roughly half the weight and volume of comparable products) and price (a third cheaper), GoDirect™ is immediately hailed as a breakthrough in accessible connectivity.

The Jet Traveler Report: The Global Perspective on Who Flies Privately and How is published. The study by Wealth-X and VistaJet provides the ‘first customer-centric analysis on the private aviation industry’. Among its many findings, the report shows that there is a ‘widespread move away from full or fractional ownership’ as ‘value is placed more on flying requirements than assets’ and an ‘increasing demand for longer trips and larger cabins’.

Another new report highlights business aviation’s ongoing revitalisation. Business Aviation: Economic Value and Business Benefits, commissioned by EBAA finds that the sector not only ‘stimulates economic growth in Europe’ but also provides a huge amount of value for the European economy and to European business.

April

Jet Aviation sets a new industry benchmark after it becomes the first business aviation company to receive a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) STC for Ka-band system integration on a Boeing 747-400. Jet Aviation’s Chief Engineer, Laurent Grahn, states: “High-speed internet connectivity is at the top of most customer wish lists these days and we are very pleased to help ensure their requirements can be met.”

May

The great and the good of the European BGA community convene in Geneva for EBACE – business aviation’s annual gathering showcasing the latest products for the sector.

There’s more reason to celebrate Jet ConneX at EBACE as it’s announced the business aviation connectivity service has undergone its 275th installation, despite only entering commercial service in November 2016.

The latest JetNet iQ Survey points to continued optimism among business aviation operators, with European operators said to be the most positive.

Cobham announces a Future Air Navigation Systems upgrade for business jets. The improvement is made possible by utilising Inmarsat’s next generation satellite communications platform, SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S). The upgrade allows direct satellite data link communication between the cockpit and air traffic control bringing with it critical safety, navigational and performance improvements.

One of the big talking points at EBACE comes courtesy of Gulfstream after it presents its G500 jet – and introduces its G600 jet. Both are fitted with IFEC powered by Inmarsat’s Jet ConneX.

Also at EBACE, Rockwell Collins announces the first installation of IFEC in the African region, again powered by Jet ConneX.

July

Global business aviation company, Vistajet, celebrates a successful first half of the year. Not only have flight revenue and hours flown increased substantially (both by 27%), but its membership has swelled to the tune of 33%.

VistaJet Bombardier Global 6000

September

Research from Revolution.Aero states that digital disruption will make business aviation cheaper. This raises the possibility that private jet travel will be open to more people in the future. Of the business aviation professionals surveyed, 67% believe advances in technology and apps will make it easier to book individual seats on private jets.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s monthly business jet reports show that international business jet operations are rising, with a 2.25% increase in flights over the past year.

October

Kai Tang is appointed as Inmarsat’s Senior Vice President of Business and General Aviation.

NetJets confirms its worldwide Bombardier Global 7500 delivery schedule. First delivery is scheduled for 2021. The new transactions – which includes Global 5000 and Global 6000 aircraft alongside the Challenger 350 and Challenger 650 – is said to be worth $195m.

Ahead of this month’s NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, there’s more reason for Jet ConneX to celebrate. Inmarsat BGA announce the 400th JX, with uptake rates above 40%.

Some great news as we approach the end of 2018. AvBuyer’s monthly Business Aviation Market Overview states that the positive mood among US aircraft owners and operators is translating into higher orders for new aircraft.

November

The $30bn merger between United Technologies Aerospace Systems and Rockwell Collins is finally complete. The new company will operate as Collins Aerospace. Describing their increased capabilities, Dave Gitlin – President and COO of Collins Aerospace – said: “The beauty (of the merger) is that we are combining from a position of strength… it is really a broad portfolio offering for everything that flies.”

Satcom Direct (SD) achieves level 1 VAR status for Jet ConneX (JX). This mark enables SD to provide Jet ConneX directly to customers.

The newly formed Collins Aerospace also achieves level 1 VAR status for Jet ConneX. Already a level 1 VAR holder for Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband, the JX service will be provided as part of Collins Aerospace’s ARINCDirectSM offering.  

December

AvBuyer’s final Market Overview of the year continues 2018’s positive mood. It expects the year ‘will end with the strongest orders for new business jets in more than a decade, as measured in the volume – but especially in the value – of transactions.’ It also states that 2018 should see the ‘big five’ business aircraft OEMs (Bombardier, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream and Textron) report orders exceeding deliveries – an indicator that ‘demand and supply forces have finally swung back into balance.’

There’s little time to reflect on a successful 2018 for business aviation with 2019’s calendar already filling up and plenty of surprises in store for the industry in the year ahead.