John Travolta, PC-24 and Challenger 350 star at EBACE 2013


The Pilatus PC-24 was arguably the star of the show at EBACE 2013.

A round-up of the biggest business aviation news from EBACE 2013, starring the Pilatus PC-24 and Bombardier’s Challenger 350 launched by John Travolta.

EBACE was well attended in a grey and expensive Geneva last month.

You can read too much into trade show attendance (12,353, to be precise) but there was a similar number of people there as the last two years. Less than the numbers at EBACE in 2008, but more than in 2009, 2010 and – perhaps surprisingly – 2007.

The highlights of the week – besides John Travolta’s surreal appearance – were Pilatus’ entry into the business jet market with the introduction of the PC-24, and Bombardier surprising us all with the launch of the Challenger 350.

Monday: Market still grim

OEMs always get the most attention at air shows and Bombardier has jumped in with the launch of the Challenger 350. This has surprised some brokers as the Challenger 300 was already dominating its market. 

In other news, Honda has pushed back deliveries of the Honda Jet for at least a year. For a smaller company, this would be a concern but no aircraft manufacturer is as well capitalised as Honda.

Don Dwyer of Guardian Jet and Jay Mesinger of J Mesinger Corporate Jet Sales summed up the mood in their joint presentation at the good International Aircraft Transactions Seminar. 

“Last year you could sum up the market in one word; bifurcation… it was split,” said Dwyer. “This year you can also do it one word: uncertain.”

Mesinger added that he wished he made fences as he could make some money when aircraft buyers kept sitting on them.

Tuesday: Travolta and the PC-24

Apart from an appearance from John Travolta to launch the Challenger 350, the biggest news today was the launch of the Pilatus PC-24.

The light jet market is already very competitive and rival manufacturers were pleased to lose Hawker last year. Now they have Pilatus. Due to be delivered in 2017, the PC-24 will cost $8.9 million and compete with Phenom 300s and Citation CJ4s.

But with the ability to land on rough runways and a distinctive cargo door, it will have some markets completely to itself. The company is calling it the first Super Versatile Jet.  

Privately owned and with no debt, Pilatus is an exciting new entrant and one to watch. Definitely one to watch.

Wednesday: Better days at Beechcraft

The mood at the Beechcraft stand is markedly different compared with last EBACE. One year ago Hawker Beechcraft had just filed for Chapter 11 and the company was struggling to explain that this did not mean the end of the company. This year it has emerged as a new company with less debt and a much more certain future.

“There is no question that morale at the company is better,” says Sean Vick, Executive Vice President, sales and marketing at Beechcraft. “It is unequivocally a nicer place to work. The untold story of our restructuring is the commitment of our people to the company and they deserve this.”

There is, however, one last thing to do.

Vick says that they are still keen to sell the Hawker 4000 and Premier Type Certificates, manufacturing knowledge and tooling. Beechcraft’s advisers are starting to hold discussions with several interested buyers – and he stresses that they are only looking for buyers that would be dedicated to supporting the aircraft for the long-term.

Is he confident that it could be sold before the end of this year? “Yes I think it will,” says Vick.

Thursday: The end of EBACE 2013

So what were the biggest stories of the show?

Obviously, the launches of the PC-24 and the Challenger 350. Both very different, but both exciting. With the PC-24 Pilatus trying to create a new market for versatile jets, with the Challenger 350 Bombardier defending its leadership of the super mid-size market.

In the maintenance market, VistaJet signed a record deal with JSSI. JSSI will provide maintenance programmes for all of VistaJet’s fleet.

Business jet shows tend to focus on positive, press release driven news. But one of the biggest disappointments to many is the continued delays to the HondaJet. It is worth remembering that the first customer deliveries were scheduled for 2010. They were then moved back to 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014.

It is a good lesson for new jet entrants like Pilatus. The difference between Honda and Pilatus is that Honda is a very large, well-financed company. Pilatus could not survive a similar delay to the PC-24.