Gulfstream sees strong growth in business jets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 March, 2011, 12:00am

Beijing's plan to spend 1.5 trillion yuan (HK$1.78 trillion) building an extra 40 airports will boost the country's growing but fledgling business jet market and its economy, senior executives from US aircraft maker Gulfstream said yesterday.

Roger Sperry, regional senior vice-president of international sales for Gulfstream, said China was already the biggest market in Asia for the company, with 30 of its aircraft operating on the mainland and 28 in Hong Kong. This compared with 142 Gulfstream aircraft operating in the Asia-Pacific region.

He gave no breakdown for how many Gulfstream aircraft would be delivered in China this year, but worldwide it is expected to deliver 99 aircraft in 2011, up from 95 last year.

Gulfstream also has 47 per cent of the Asia-Pacific market for large-cabin executive jets against rivals such as Bombardier and Embraer.

This percentage could increase when it starts deliveries of its larger and faster G650 model next year. With 200 G650s on order, priced at around US$64.5 million each, the new Gulfstream represents about 66 per cent of the plane maker's US$17.8 billion order backlog.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's opening of the Asian Aerospace show at Chek Lap Kok airport, Sperry said Gulfstream's sales 'have been growing every year'.

He said the number of business jets would only increase as both mainland and foreign businesspeople and companies used them domestically and internationally. This came as Gulfstream was expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the HNA Group, parent of Hainan Airlines, immediately after the opening ceremony, that would lead to further aircraft orders.

HNA, through its Deer Jet air charter subsidiary, already operates a fleet of Gulfstream aircraft including the 12-18 seat G550.

Sperry would not be drawn on the latest deal with HNA, which could include jets for its Beijing Capital Airlines subsidiary.

But he said: 'China has been one of the strongest markets and we have every indication it will continue [to be] for Gulfstream and Beijing Capital Airlines.'

Gulfstream will have three business jets at the show, including the G450 and G550, which will be among 21 business aircraft on display from manufacturers such as Bombardier, Cessna, Dassault Falcon, Embraer and Hawker Beechcraft.

Airbus and Boeing will also be displaying corporate jet variants of their A318 and Boeing 737 passenger aircraft.

Turning to China's airport expansion plans, Gulfstream spokesman Jeff Miller said the investment in 10 new airports every year to 2015 'will be very good for business aviation'. He said it would give business aircraft users 'more locations to fly into', bringing investment, jobs and boosting local economies.

Sperry said that since the turn of the century, Beijing had made great strides in relaxing regulatory controls on corporate jet travel. He said 10 years ago it took between seven and 10 days for a foreign-registered business jet to receive the necessary permit to fly into China. Now it normally takes three days and can be done faster in urgent circumstances.

Sperry said dedicated business jet terminals have been opened at Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing airports. He said adding such facilities - catering exclusively for corporate jets - at other mainland airports was key to further expansion of business jet travel in China.