A Tale of Sustainability, Three New Business Jets, and the Market Leader That Did Not Show Up
The Las Vegas Convention Center and the static display at Henderson Executive Airport set the stage for NBAA-BACE 2023 and several new aircraft and other key developments were announced by industry participants. In this article, we will provide a full recap of these and other key takeaways from the business aviation industry’s big show, which was attended by more than 800 exhibitors and 20,000 people.
Sustainability was a key focus at this year’s NBAA-BACE and permeated the agenda all week, with leaders from across the industry leveraging business aviation’s largest event to launch a new initiative called Climbing. Fast., affirming the industry’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.
“At NBAA-BACE, we made clear: business aviation is on a mission to net zero – and we are Climbing. Fast.,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen.
During the show, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) was available at all three Las Vegas airports during the week. According to NBAA, SAF volumes were four times the amount from the last time the event was in Las Vegas two years ago. According to NBAA, SAF can reduce net carbon emissions by up to 80%. Also as part of the show, 78 companies took the NBAA-BACE Exhibitor Sustainability Pledge which entails a variety of actions to shrink their carbon footprint and reduce waste. Held in conjunction with the show, the three-day 2023 Business Aviation Sustainability Summit also gave attendees access to hear from experts about sustainability progress and collaborative initiatives within the aviation industry.
For the second time in three years, Gulfstream, the world’s largest business jet manufacturer ahead of Bombardier, did not take part in the event, which seems like a missed opportunity and some might regard it as a lack of commitment and support of the industry. The company, however, had a large presence at EBACE earlier this year, and at NBAA-BACE last year in Orlando, Gulfstream brought several prototypes and production aircraft to the event, including the G800. The decision to opt out of the event certainly raised eyebrows and sparked curiosity. Gulfstream’s explanation for not attending was somewhat vague simply stating that “Gulfstream consistently reviews and evaluates our marketing investments to ensure we are delivering on our mission – to create and deliver the world’s finest aviation experience for our customers.” According to Private Jet Clubs, a business aviation news source, in recent years, Gulfstream has focused on holding private events and experiences for its customers. The decision to skip NBAA-BACE likely reflects a shift in the company’s strategy toward more targeted and customer-centric events and should not be regarded as a lack of commitment to the industry as such. When asked about Gulfstream’s decision to opt out when it was announced a few months ago, NBAA’s Senior Vice President of Communications, Dan Hubbard, commented: “All exhibitors at NBAA’s convention build their business plans – including as they relate to event participation – around their own set of business priorities, and we respect the decision Gulfstream has made, based on its considerations.” Gulfstream is currently at an inflection point with the G700’s first delivery right around the corner – at a time when its top rival is inching closer every quarter and has nearly closed the gap in quarterly sales (billings) according to numbers released by the General Aviation Manufacturers’ Association (GAMA).
Just before the show, Honeywell released their Global Business Aviation Outlook, which is released on an annual basis. In their 32nd Global Business Aviation Outlook released on October 15, Honeywell predicts strong demand for new business jets and an increased focus on reducing emissions. The company forecasts up to 8,500 new business jet deliveries worth $278 billion from 2024 to 2033, which is in line with the same 10-year forecast one year ago.
New Aircraft Announcements
At or just before this year’s NBAA-BACE, three new business jets were unveiled in the light and very-light jet categories: The HA-420 Series HondaJet Echelon light jet, the Cessna Citation CJ3 Gen2 light jet, and the Embraer Phenom 100EX very-light business jet.
Press conferences were held Monday last week and Honda Aircraft revealed the name of their new HA-420 Series light jet, HondaJet Echelon. A mockup of the new jet stood alongside the HondaJet Elite II during the show. The HondaJet Echelon was previously introduced as the HondaJet 2600 Concept at NBAA-BACE 2021 and, according to its manufacturer, it sets a new paradigm by offering a mid-sized jet experience in the light jet category. The original HondaJet concept was originally announced in the late-1990s and the first flight was made in 2003. In 2015, production deliveries commenced and as of June 30, 2023, 236 units have been delivered. The bulk of these deliveries were in the 2017-21 period, while 2022 was a disappointing year with only 17 shipments. In the first half of 2023, Honda delivered 10 HA-420 Series jets.
Textron Aviation unveiled their new Cessna Citation business jet, the Cessna Citation CJ3 Gen2. According to the company, the Citation CJ3 Gen2 raises the bar in the light jet market. “The Cessna Citation CJ3 Gen2 is our most comprehensive Gen2 product announcement yet, offering customers proven performance, leading-edge technology, and an unmatched cabin experience,” said Ron Draper, President and CEO of Textron Aviation. Attendees had access to a Citation CJ3 Gen2 mock-up at the company’s static display at Henderson Executive Airport. The aircraft is expected to enter into service in 2025. Textron made a big splash at NBAA-BACE and also had nine other aircraft on display, including four Cessna Citation-series business jets (Longitude, Latitude, CJ4, and M2), three turboprops (Beechcraft King Air 360 and Denali and the Cessna Caravan), a Bell 429 helicopter, and a mock-up of the new Cessna Citation Ascend, which was announced in May this year.
Also, Embraer unveiled the new Phenom 100EX very-light business jet just last week and the aircraft made its debut at the show. The Phenom 100 Series has been in operation since 2008 with over 400 aircraft now flying. “We are proud to announce the Phenom 100EX—an aircraft designed to experience excellence with superior comfort and disruptive technology that enhances safety,” said Michael Amalfitano, President and CEO of Embraer Executive Jets. According to Embraer, the Phenom 100EX is the first in its class to feature a Runway Overrun Awareness and Alerting System (ROAAS), which acts during one of the most critical moments of flight and builds a clear picture of the anticipated landing conditions. The aircraft is capable of flying at 41,000 feet (12,500 meters) and is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F1-E engines with 1,730 pounds of thrust each. The aircraft features a high-speed cruise of 467 mph (752 km/h) and has a four-occupant range of 1,178 nm (2,182 km).
Other Key Industry Announcements from the Show
At NBAA-BACE, Daher celebrated the 500th delivery of a TBM 900 Series aircraft. According to the French aircraft manufacturer, the milestone underscores the continued global market demand for their TBM turboprop product line. Daher is one of a handful of smaller manufacturers that have performed very well in recent years and experienced significant growth. The milestone aircraft was a TBM 960 model, the company’s flagship aircraft, and Daher currently has more than 100 TBM 960s on order, which exceeds two years of production. Daher has delivered 76 TBM 960s as of June 30, 2023 – since shipments commenced in early 2022. In 2019, Daher made a big strategic push by acquiring Idaho-based Quest Aircraft Company, adding the Kodiak product line to its portfolio. at NBAA-BACE, Daher showcased the TBM 960 on the company’s exhibit stand in the Las Vegas Convention Center.
During the show, Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Eutelsat OneWeb to offer advanced inflight connectivity to ACJ customers. This will be accomplished using OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation and a dedicated electronic flat antenna. Airbus debuted their ACJ TwoTwenty corporate jet version of the A220-100 at NBAA-BACE and also had the ACH160 helicopter on display for a U.S. debut. Airbus’ corporate jet product line also includes ACJneo variants based on the A319neo and A320neo, the ACJ350 variants (A350-900 and A350-1000), and the ACJ330neo (A330-800 and A330-900).
At NBAA-BACE, Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) unveiled new premium cabin selections for their BBJ corporate jet product line. According to the company, the new BBJ Select cabin options streamline the design process, accelerate interiors installation, and jet delivery. Developed exclusively for the BBJ 737-7, with BBJ Select, Boeing is offering a wide range of pre-designed cabin layouts and configurations to expedite installation, while lowering the total purchase price of the airplane. Boeing has a 737 MAX-based BBJ on display during the week. Boeing’s BBJ product line features the BBJ 737 MAX (737-7/-8/-9), the BBJ 787 (787-8/-9/-10), and BBJ 777X (777-8/-9).
In line with this year’s big sustainability focus, Bombardier announced that it now ramps up the second test phase of their EcoJet Research Project. As part of the second test phase, Bombardier is flying a blended wing body (BWB) aircraft test vehicle with a width of 18 feet. The company’s engineering team explores the BWB aircraft configuration and new technologies to reduce business jet emissions by up to 50%. The EcoJet research project aims to reduce aircraft emissions by up to 50% through a combination of enhancements in aerodynamics, propulsion and other key areas. The project, which started 15 years ago, is a sustainability-focused research and technology initiative. At this year’s NBAA-BACE, Bombardier had five aircraft on display, including the Challenger 3500, Challenger 650, a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Challenger 300, and the Global 6500 and 7500.
At the show, Embraer and CAE announced plans to double the Phenom 300 pilot training capacity in Las Vegas and London Burgess Hill. Through their joint venture, Embraer-CAE Training Services (ECTS), the two companies will add training capacity with the deployment of two new Phenom 300 full-flight simulators (FFS) to meet the growing demand for pilot training in Europe and the United States. Embraer had four of their business jets on display last week, the Praetor 500 and 600 and the Phenom 100EV and 300E. Just prior to the show, Embraer announced that the Phenom 300E and Praetor 600 have completed 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) flight tests.
At the show, Dassault demonstrated their new flight app called FalconWays, which is part of the company’s commitment to sustainable flying. FalconWays uses global wind data to help pilots quickly plan and utilize routings that save fuel and time while lowering emissions. Also, for the first time, Dassault Aviation consolidated its NBAA-BACE activities at the show’s static display at Henderson Executive Airport. At Henderson, Dassault had the Falcon 8X on display as well as the Falcon 2000LXS and a Falcon 10X mock-up.
Cirrus Aircraft revealed a Special Edition Vision Jet (SF50) to commemorate their milestone 500th SF50 delivery. According to the company, the Vision Jet has been the best-selling jet in the market over the past five years. “With the delivery of the 500th Vision Jet, Cirrus Aircraft celebrates the marketplace success of a category-defining aircraft,” said Zean Nielsen, Chief Executive Officer of Cirrus Aircraft. Cirrus has seven locations in the United States and is owned by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). In 2022, the company delivered 90 SF50 Vision Jets, with another 44 delivered in the first half of 2023. At the event, Cirrus showcased the SF50 and the piston-powered SR22. As a side note, the SR22 is one of the most iconic aircraft in the business aviation industry. While small, in 2022, with 439 units sold (280 SR22Ts and 159 SR22s), more SR22s were sold than any other business aviation aircraft.
Swiss turboprop and jet manufacturer, Pilatus, announced just before NBA-BACE that they have improved their PC-24 Super Versatile Jet by adding more range and payload. Beginning with new aircraft deliveries in 2024, the PC-24 will now be able to achieve a maximum range with six passengers of 2,000 nautical miles (3,704 kilometers) equal to a 10% range increase. Pilatus has also incorporated new interior amenities. “The payload increase was achieved by refining both wing and fuselage structural elements to reduce the airframe empty weight while simultaneously increasing the maximum gross take-off weight limit,” said Bruno Cervia, Vice President of Engineering. In 2022, Pilatus delivered 40 PC-24s followed by another 18 in the first half of 2023. Pilatus had their PC-12 turboprop and the PC-24 on display at this year’s NBAA-BACE.
Other Key Takeaways from NBAA-BACE 2023
NBAA-BACE featured panels, forums, conferences, keynote speeches, special events and dozens of educational sessions and Professional Development Program (PDP) courses during the week.
Students and career-seekers had the chance to discuss job and internship possibilities with recruiters at the Collegiate Connect gathering. To help grow the industry workforce, the Collegiate Connect program offered a series of panel discussions and education sessions aimed at sharing job search and networking strategies with college students. About 100 students attended the event and received guidance on career development directly from young aviation industry professionals, while also engaging with exhibitors.
Also, given the current workforce shortage across the aerospace industry, NBAA launched a new career fair where 16 exhibitors interviewed for a variety of aviation jobs. Another new arrival at NBAA-BACE was a maintenance competition, where teams of students from the Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Chicago and Las Vegas competed in timed tasks.
Tuesday’s keynote address was delivered by tennis legends and powerhouse philanthropists Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf with stories of overcoming adversity and making meaningful changes in people’s lives. Wednesday’s keynote addresses were delivered by entrepreneur, investor, FUBU CEO, and Shark Tank TV personality, Daymond John, and Colonel Nicole Malachowski, combat veteran, fighter squadron commander, White House fellow and advisor. In a moving keynote, Malachowski shared how she overcame hurdles and self-doubt on her way to becoming the U.S. Air Force’s first female Thunderbird pilot.
NBAA-BACE returns to Las Vegas next year from Oct. 22-24 for the 2024 edition of the show. In the meantime, Forecast International will continue to cover the shifting dynamics within the business jet market, such as the rivalry between Gulfstream and Bombardier, as well as the various market factors propelling the general aviation/utility segment as Textron Aviation, Cirrus, Daher, Diamond, Piper, and a host of others battle for sales and market share.
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