The generation game

“Find a connection between the DNA of the ground and the air and you’ll find a future we can work on.” So speaks Tom Palmaerts, Trend Chief & Partner of Belgian future thinking consultancy Trendwolves.

There is a great gulf between people from Generation Y and those that are actually flying today. The average age of a business aircraft owner is 60 years old – clearly not the same customer that will be buying aircraft in the future. However, the charter industry is looking more promising. According to online broker PrivateFly, the average age of charter users is 40. Furthermore, according to WinX Advance’s Richard Koe, these people are bringing in a younger market. “Companies like PrivateFly and other technological innovators are appealing to a generation that is growing up with internet and mobile phones,” he explains.

Consultant Rolland Vincent points out that today’s young people are living in a very different world from the 60-year-old owners, and have a very different mindset. “If you want to create a flourishing private aviation industry, it will require production facilities and fuel,” he cautions. “We are a dirty industry in terms of how much we pollute the environment and we have to address propulsion technology and processes.”

A look to the CEE

Putting the future in context of today, business aviation activity in the CEE region is flat, with a minor uptick of 3% growth. However, when compared to Europe, it has a six-year history of positive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) – not to mention that the whole region is relatively wealthy. Very light jet activity accounts for 20% of operations, indicating there are new customers coming into the market via air taxi services. The region’s top players are The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia. The single engine turboprop has seen resurgence here, particularly the Pilatus PC12. “The new SET regulation may offer a new price point to users in this region,” points out Koe.

That being said, according to Palmaerts, the future of bizav is bright. “Young people are the key and Gen Y is a generation that is globally connected and the most influenced by technology,” he says

A look beyond the horizon

In 1804 daring steam train travellers hurtled through the ether at speeds of 20mph. Later, flag waving men protected the public from early automobiles. So it’s hardly surprising there is fierce opposition to the latest transport breakthrough.

Unmanned air vehicles are the 21st century’s unwanted children. They are used as toys, narrowly miss aircraft, and spy on us. So should these highly capable devices fall under the auspices of the corporate flight department?

CEPA chairman Roger Whyte and aviation consultant Roland Vincent argue “yes.” They come complete with airfoils, the ability to fly, and the potential to do some serious good. They are already in use in remote areas in Rwanda delivering drugs, and have applications ranging from photography, to pipeline checks. However, as they will inhabit airspace, they should fall under the wing of aeronautical people.

Meanwhile back on the ground, hundreds of piloted air vehicles stagnate unflown, in a tepid second hand market. Vincent is not predicting any great change for the foreseeable future, thanks to political instability and a large complement of aircraft for sale, likely due to overproduction in recent years, coupled with a lack of market confidence.

When these aircraft become airborne again, they’ll need to be able to take on biofuel, use quieter engines, and purify their emissions to meet stringent targets mandated for 2050. Global aviation must then reduce its nitrous oxide emissions by 90%, noise by 60% and decrease its carbon dioxide output to a quarter of levels measured in 2000. The kicker is that there will be twice the number of aircraft flying – around 36,000 ferrying seven billion passengers, up from 3.5 bn today. A tall order? This industry is noted for innovation, despite some experimental casualties. Even the Wright Flyer only flew for one day.

WORKSHOP EASA AIR OPS brush-up

The European Union’s regulations pertaining to the technical requirements and administrative procedures for air operations is having a significant impact on National Aviation Authorities (NAA) and operators alike. In order to demonstrate compliance, all operators must remain EASA – Air Ops certified – an intense and costly process that typically takes up to three days.

Being more than your average bizav conference, the CEPA EXPO partnered with the Joint Aviation Authorities Training Organisation (JAA TO) to provide attendees a special opportunity to update their EASA – Air Ops certification. The purpose of this interactive ‘brush up’ course was to familarise participants with the requirements of the EASA regulation.

“People have to know about the regulations and changes of EASA in order to avoid accidents and problems,” explains JAA TO Workshop Speaker Gert Janse. “For example, if an accident takes place and they do not meet the EASA regulations, it might be a huge problem in terms of getting your insurance to cover the damages.”

The training covered a range of topics pertinent to both CAT and NCC, including:

  • EASA regulatory structure
  • Regulation Air Operations
  • Highlights and recent changes to authority, organisational and technical requirements for Air Operations, along with specific approvals

“Regulations are changing a lot, so it is always good to stay ahead of the curve,” says Afcon Jet’s Anita Fox. “This workshop is very important, not just to remain up to date, but also to meet other people with similar interests.”

Participants included operators, crew scheduling officers, compliance and safety department staff, cabin crew, pilots, competent authorities and flight departments.

RUSSIAN WORKSHOP

Sergey S. Iurev and Anastasia Konyukhova of Russia’s National Association of Air Law provide key insights into Russian rules and regulations pertaining to aviation.

Although the Air Code of the Russian Federation of 1997 is the main law governing aviation, a large number of other regulations are piled on every year. Already this year 167 new regulations pertaining to aviation have been passed! Furthermore, the air law of Russia is constantly evolving. For example, over the last year the country enacted new regulations on the use of unmanned aircraft and created a unified system of air traffic organisation, among others.

One key regulatory development relates to passenger data transfer – both general flight data and biographical passenger data. For business aviation, there is usually no requirement for PNR-data transfer as operators either do not store this data or the data is only available after check-in. In the Russian Federation, air carriers who conduct unscheduled passenger transportation into, from or over Russian territory must transfer only the API data developed during passenger check in. This data must be transferred within 15 minutes of departure.

PRE-OWNED MARKET

The pre-owned aircraft market is changing. Whereas in the past demand came primarily from the medium and large cabin aircraft, last year this segment posted a double digit decline in value. At least half of this trend can be attributed to the effect of a strong US dollar, although this is only a theory.

“What is not a theory, however, is that large cabin or heavy jet aircraft are, in general, declining in value at a rate that is inconsistent with the once held truth that these were 20 to 30 year useful life assets,” says Credit Suisse Markus Bärtschi. “There’s also the problem that such traditional references as Bluebook are no longer the go-to-reference, being replaced by distressed deals as the new benchmark.”

When it comes to the pre-owned market, residual values of business jets are causing owners to delay replacement, and this has an effect on availability of used aircraft. According to one survey, 59% of those surveyed were influenced by the current used aircraft market. However, OEMs will be encouraged by the fact that available used jets are now down to a ‘normal’ level of 12% of the world aircraft fleet, compared with 17% in 2009. For existing operators, there is no reason for them to add to or replace their existing aircraft.

“The problem is that the state of the European, and indeed the global, business aviation industry is not reflecting its value proposition. In short, it has barely recovered at all from its crash in 2009, and business aviation activity in Europe has actually slipped in each of the last two years,” explains WingX Advance Managing Director Richard Koe. “More so, the customer base – whether aircraft buyers or charterers – is not growing. Instead, the industry is reliant on a tiny niche of ultra-rich individuals. Worse still, this cohort now appears to be receding, as their oil incomes dwindle and shareholdings slump.”

Which brings us to 2016 – a year where we are seeing more of the same. Both Bärtschi and Koe agree that North America will continue to serve as the industry’s engine as other regions go soft due to geopolitical stresses, struggling economies, commodity and oil price pressures and currency fluctuations against the US dollar. Our conclusion: expect more of the same through the end of 2016, with better days expected from 2017.

SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR ON-DEMAND AIR TRANSPORTATION IN CEE

Central and Eastern Europe would benefit greatly from an increased availability of reliable on-demand air transport from light business aircraft (LBA). However, before this can happen, LBAs must achieve a safety record that approaches that of professionally flown two-pilot corporate aircraft and scheduled airlines. The challenge, of course, is that the on-demand business model favours single-pilot crews.

“Cities in Central Europe not currently served or are under served by scheduled airlines are now accessible by on-demand air taxis using single-engine turboprops with a single pilot,” says Wright Aviation Solutions President Robert Wright. “Public acceptance of this kind of service will depend on how well risks are managed by operators and single-pilot crews.”

According to Wright, the current accident rate of single-pilot LBAs is several times greater than that of corporate aircraft flown by two-pilot professional crews. However, Wright cautions that conventional accident analysis often do not reveal the real cause of accidents. According to his analysis of fatal business aviation accidents in the US from 2006 to 2009, 71% of the accidents studied were fundamentally the result of poor pilot risk management.

In a move in the right direction, the NBAA’s Safety Committee recently launched a risk management tool for single-pilot LBA operators. It is also developing other actions to address single-pilot safety concerns.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR ON-DEMAND AIR MOBILITY

According to futurist George Gilder, “chips and software will continue to make great contributions to our lives, but the action is elsewhere”. In particular, he says the action is in the bandwidth. “Bandwidth is exploding, and its abundance is the most important social and economic factor of our time.”

Today, Gilder’s prophecies, originally intended for Telecosm, are applicable to aviation. “Our aviation community has watched the explosion of apps for mobile devices and desktops, mostly from the tarmac,” says SmartSky Networks’ Dr Bruce J. Holmes. “When the wheels leave the ground, we are off the grid and our flight plans are largely overcome by events not in our control.”

However, thanks to bandwidth, ideas that have spent years stuck on the drawing board – ideas for gaining control of time, money, fuel, carbon footprints and workloads – now have a clear path to market. “And this is just the beginning,” adds Dr. Holmes. “Coupled with emerging advancements in propulsion, autonomy and automation, bandwidth can be a catalyst for an amazing future in air mobility.”

DRONES – NEEDS OF REGULATION

Drones seem to be everywhere – often times where they’re not supposed to be. We regularly read headlines about a near-miss situation where a drone came dangerously close to an aircraft and quick-acting pilots averting catastrophe by disconnecting the autopilot and manually diverting the aircraft.

Regardless, just as Smartphones and Facebook started out as niche fads, drones are here to stay. What’s more, they’ve moved well beyond their initial recreational use of taking aerial photographs and simple movies and are now being used for a wide range of complex tasks. As such, drone technology is rapidly advancing, which is why we’re now seeing them outside our aircraft windows.

“Now that drones are a staple of our skies, there’s a need for regulations,” says G-JET G550 Captain Michael Struempl. “But instead of just regulating them away by applying old aviation standards to a new situation, we need to see drones for what they are and regulate accordingly.” According to Struempl, the problem is most of our aviation regulatory agencies are ill-equipped to do so. Instead of evolving to adapt regulations to new situations (i.e., drones), they all too often attempt to regulate new situations with old standards. It’s like trying to put a round peg into a square hole!

For example, most aviation regulations depend on whether a flight is private or commercial or if an ‘aircraft’ is used over a populated area. “With this approach what you get is a father and a young son going to the nearest electronics store to buy a cheap drone to fly around in their backyard,” explains Struempl. “Although this seems harmless enough, what they don’t know is that their innocent father/son bonding time is likely in violation of aviation law, and that prior to flying the drone they technically needed to apply for CAA approval. But of course to get approval they will first need to get insurance, which typically costs millions of Euro.”

Clearly, what is needed are reasonable regulations that ensure the security and safety of all without restricting the skies to new and exciting uses.

Wanted: tomorrow’s aviation experts

In the circles of business aviation, one topic that always comes up is the skills shortage. The fear is that fewer and fewer young adults are pursuing a career in aviation, meaning the industry is facing a critical shortage in the skills it needs to remain viable.

While others continue only to talk about this challenge, CEPA EXPO is taking action. The first CEPA EXPO Career Day brought nearly 120 future graduates and young aviation professionals from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and even Turkey and Brazil to Vaclav Havel Airport Prague where they had the unique opportunity to meet one-on-one with business aviation companies, learn about the diversity of job opportunities in bizav, and brush up on their job finding skills. Participating companies included: Air Navigation Services of the Czech Republic, Předvýběr.cz, Euro Jet, ABS Jets, Primus, Aero Vodochody, FlightSafety International and GE Aviation – among others.

“Students deserve to have a chance to get to know more about our industry,” says ABS Jets Director of Ground Operations Michael Pazourek. “We are here to show them the options and job opportunities they have.”

Throughout the course of the day, bizav owners introduced their companies and discussed the type of skills they were looking for. Many students noted their surprise at the diversity of job types found in business aviation. Instead of just pilots and engineers, there’s also a need for designers, mechanics, chefs and caterers.

“I had no idea that there were so many different job possibilities in business aviation,” says student Renata S. “It is really a broad, interesting and amazing industry.”

“I love aviation and want to become a pilot but also I want to have a family,” adds student Marek G. “I came to CEPA Expo to find out what else I could do in the aviation sector apart from being a pilot, and without having to be away for long periods of time. The speakers gave me a lot of ideas and showed me different paths I can follow; I am happy I am here today.”

Another university student was very happy that the CEPA Expo organised such a great event, noting that she was very pleased with the presentations and job-seeking services that were on offer. “After today, I would love to move to Prague and get a job immediately after I finish my studies,” she says.

HR professionals also provided a crash course on job seeking skills, including how to create a professional CV and cover letter, what courses one should study to become an ANS controller and tips and tricks to securing an internship or landing their first job in aviation.

In one session on how to become a pilot in business aviation, Pazourek emphasized the need to be flexible. “You have to be flexible and dedicated,” he explains. “In business aviation there is no fixed schedule.”