Altea partners Jean Sémiramoth and Robin Dunlop share a review of 2021 and the trends they expect to see in the business aviation market in 2022.
Specialising in business jets, regional aircraft and helicopters, Altea offers asset management, procurement and sales, financial solutions and design services. Clients include financial institutions, operators, aircraft manufacturers, governments and private individuals.
Altea noted that 2021 saw unprecedented demand for pre-owned aircraft. “If we consider pre-owned aircraft the numbers speak for themselves,” said Sémiramoth. “Early January 2021 there were approximately 1,700 pre-owned business jets and 960 preowned turboprop aircraft for sale on the open market. Less than 12 months later these have shrunk to less than 920 and 640 respectively – hitting new historical low levels.”
According to Altea it is clearly a seller’s market and this is not anticipated to change until the second half of 2022. And then there is the uptick in prices. “What a major paradigm shift in less than a year,” added Sémiramoth. “List prices across the board are now back to – and in some cases above – their pre-pandemic levels.”
Turning to new business aircraft, Sémiramoth points to a vibrant market with OEMs revealing new long-range models and greater comfort, including the October 2021 unveiling of the Gulfstream G800 (with a range of 8,000 nautical miles), and the launch of the G400 (with a range of 4,200 nautical miles).
He also noted Dassault’s launch of the Falcon 10X, with a range of 7,500 nautical miles. “The Falcon 10X simply aims at redefining standards in the ultra-long-range business jet arena with the widest cabin in the segment and a myriad of innovative features such as an auto-recovery mode, a smart throttle as the primary power control, dual head-up displays certified as primary flight displays and pilot seats with full-recline capability to enable single-pilot operation in cruise,” said Sémiramoth. “Meanwhile, the Beechcraft Denali, the Falcon 6X and the ACJ TwoTwenty all made their first flights in 2021, paving the way for their entry into service between 2022 and 2023.”
But are the light- to super-midsize jets the next aircraft types to watch? As Altea observes, Bombardier unveiled the Challenger 3500, a revamp of the Challenger 350, while Textron introduced upgrades to the Citation M2, XLS+ and CJ4 dubbed the M2 Gen2, XLS Gen2 and CJ4 Gen2. Meanwhile HondaJet unveiled its concept for a clean-sheet transcontinental light jet, the HondaJet 2600.
On the completions and design front, 2021 saw an active market despite supply chain issues, said Robin Dunlop, design partner at Altea. “To some extent the pandemic has led to increased MRO activities with the storage of aircraft and owners taking advantage of the downturn in flying to bring bigger maintenance checks forward,” he said.
Dunlop identifies other key achievements during the past year: “Having delivered the first Boeing BBJ 787-8 back in 2016, Safran-owned Greenpoint Technologies in Seattle, USA, delivered the world’s first VVIP Boeing BBJ 787-9 interior completion to an undisclosed client. The power of teamwork resulted in Greenpoint modifying the aircraft eight months faster than the first VVIP Boeing BBJ 787-8. Quite an engineering achievement. The interior design was undertaken by Greenpoint’s experienced team.”
Towards the end of 2021, Jet Aviation announced the on-time redelivery of its first VVIP BBJ 787-8 interior completion to an undisclosed customer. Jet Aviation said the interior was notable for its low weight and low cabin acoustic level.
Dunlop also noted some of the achievements of another company with a facility in Basel, AMAC Aerospace, which completed multiple maintenance projects this past year on VIP Boeing and Airbus aircraft, as well as many Bombardier and Gulfstream projects. The company also opened its hangar five facility, dedicated to mid-size models.
Design concepts continue to inspire. For example, Lufthansa Technik utilised its in-house design team to come up with several interesting design concepts for ACJ350s.
Moving back stateside, Comlux Completion announced it would be ACJ’s completion centre of choice for the ACJ TwoTwenty programme back in late 2020, with a potential pipeline of 15 ACJ TwoTwenty aircraft. The first green aircraft has arrived for outfitting at Comlux’s facility in Indianapolis. The world’s first ACJ TwoTwenty will be re-delivered with its new VIP interior to Five Hotels Group, based in Dubai, UAE. This is anticipated to happen early in 2023.
“This is a bit of a landmark aircraft for the business aviation sector as it creates its own niche, bigger, and thus arguably more comfortable than a traditional long-range business jet, yet more affordable and as capable as a narrow-body bizliner,” said Dunlop. “No doubt this ‘new-style’ VIP aircraft will have much appeal in the launch customer’s region.”
Back at Altea’s headquarters and design studio in London, UK, the Altea design team unveiled a custom Global 7500 interior in the Autumn and jumped in with Bombardier on its Global 7500 tour, meeting up with the aircraft and potential customers in Stockholm, Sweden. “As aircraft interiors seek to become more things to their owners, Altea believes the simplicity and good practice of the industrial design process will be key to future interior schemes, especially as the private jet ownership becomes more accessible to younger aircraft owners who bring a natural awareness towards more design-savvy requirements,” said Dunlop.
Dunlop also commented that Altea is investigating the eVTOL market and what implications urban mobility will have on business aviation, design trends and aircraft ownership. “This niche area of innovation seems awash with investors keen to take a punt on what vehicle or technology will become the mainstay for the future,” said Dunlop. “The truth is that it will be slower than people want, and no doubt a hybrid of several innovations and alternative power sources. In the immediate future, sustainable aircraft fuel will play a bigger part in the aviation industry than perhaps many first thought.”
The outlook for design and completion in 2022 in Altea’s view will undoubtedly continue to grow so long as the aircraft are there to convert. However, one area that may be of particular interest to watch is the increase in the luxury hotel and ‘air-cruising’ market. Such markets can utilise an array of aircraft platforms, from older wide-bodies such as Boeing 767s, to re-positioned and re-configured aircraft previously thought of as regional jets – the Embraer E2 for example, to create a niche between a first-class airline experience and private jet charter.