2016 crystal ball gazing

Cessna Citation X+

It’s time once again to gaze into the crystal ball and see what the year ahead holds for business and private aviation. Rob Seaman provides you with just a snapshot of 2016.

The best place to start is with some thoughts from respected industry overseer Brian Foley. According to his crystal ball, there are a few possible trends to watch for.

First is a continuation to the big cabin business jet slump. “Those participating in this end of the market will continue to identify ‘redundancies’ and scale back production,” Foley explains.

Second is the weakening strength of China – and to those who followed the stock markets since the beginning of the year, and the rapid decline globally based on this influence, this will be no surprise. This once leading market is under a lot if stress and a victim of change. As both stress and change are not unknown to the aviation industry, Brian notes that “from a previous sales roar to now just a whimper, this region will remain on the sidelines for the rest of the year. Chinese-owned general aviation interests in the US will feel the heat from reduced investment, the effects of which will be telegraphed in the form of new program delays.”

Third is what he refers to as the US-centric aviation strength. “The US, which is the aviation epicenter of the world, has one of the best performing economies. This will be a plus for nearly every measurable metric including business jet operations, hour flown, aircraft sales and corporate aviation careers.”

The fourth and final note from Mr. Foley is with regards to mergers and acquisitions. In his view “consolidation will continue throughout the industry with particular emphasis in the FBO and MRO sectors.” We only need look back at the acquisitions of Landmark Aviation by Signature, and ExecuJet by Luxaviation, to see two, very large examples of this. As many have observed before, it would seem the days of the independent and smaller chain FBOs are numbered. Working in a collective force seems to be the trend for the immediate future.

From the association perspective, NBAA recently noted that, in 2016, it will continue its fight against ATC privatization funded through user fees. To that end, NBAA is encouraging its members to use the online tool entitled Contact Congress to let lawmakers know the detrimental impact such a plan would have on the industry. “Our community is politically aware and understands that we may need to reach out to elected officials on a sustained, continuous basis to make sure before they vote they know how it will effect their constituents,” NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen commented. Members may learn more about the upcoming fight against ATC privatization in the association’s publication called NBAA Flight Plan.

Must-read: NBAA concerned about ATC privatization and Advocacy needed now more than ever

Across the pond, EASA has announced two decisions favorable to business aircraft operators in the context of the new third-country operator (TCO) authorization. These changes will take effect in November 2016. Because of this modification, operators who applied for the TCO authorization will not require a change to their existing flight data recorder (FDR) equipment, provided the FDR gear is already in place on an aircraft that received a certificate of airworthiness prior to November 26, 2016. EASA has also clarified that the alleviation does not apply to aircraft that do not have an FDR.

In its second announcement, EASA created a so-called virtual business aircraft category that should save operators time when adding a new aircraft type to their TCO authorization. Instead of applying for prior re-authorization by EASA, operators may add their new aircraft type through the agency’s online TCO internet portal.

The new TCO Business Aircraft category encompasses aircraft with these criteria:

  • Not used for scheduled operations
  • Multi-engine passenger aeroplane
  • Operated by multi-crew
  • Does not exceed an MCTOM of 45,500 kg [100,310 lbs]
  • Maximum 19 passengers
  • Holds an EASA type certificate

Also of note in the coming year, both NBAA and the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) are reporting that they are continuing to discuss other operator concerns with EASA, one specifically being safety management system (SMS) requirements.

Moving along to the ever changing and evolving world of avionics, according to Avionics Today – the publication of the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) 2016 is going to be a busy year for the aviation industry in both the commercial and military sectors. As we have reported before, there a many mandates coming along on the calendar and as usual, a lot of procrastination on the part of many operators according to the avionics service and repair providers. The later you wait, the more the possibility you may not be compliant when the due date arrives. Space in the shops and hardware tend to both a bit scarce as these dates come closer.

Also read: Avionics update 2015

According to the AEA report, use of the Internet will continue to expand and airspace system modernization; and the way airplanes are tracked and managed will continue to improve.

So here are just some hot points they have identified for 2016.

Aviation Cyber Security

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), commercial airline operators, business aviation operators, Air Traffic Controller (ATC) organizations and aviation regulatory officials are well aware of the realistic threats that exist in the realm of cyber security. This issue is growing as companies continue to introduce ways and means for both passengers and pilots to use connectivity onboard today’s aircraft.

In its report, AEA states that every avionics box, new patch of software, and related items that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) deemed to be at major risk to possible nefarious intrusion must pass rigorous inspection and evaluation by the FAA and by EASA before being operated on commercial, military or business aviation flights. The association concludes by saying that more must and is being done to ensure security in this area.

Bandwidth

According to the AEA, in 2016, IATA estimates there will be 3.8 billion passengers traveling on commercial aircraft alone around the world. That’s an average of 70 aircraft departing every minute. Considering demand will continue to increase for both passenger and operational aircraft Internet usage, bandwidth and the capacity necessary to facilitate and manage Internet traffic for all those aircraft is an issue. Accordingly, Inmarsat, Iridium, Panasonic, SmartSky, SITA and others will continue to work with major OEMs in an growing effort to introduce and expand the capabilities of aircraft Internet solutions. Competition to prove which company has the best bandwidth available for the long term will take center stage in 2016.

ADS-B 

As the AEA report states, the FAA estimates that there are still more than 100,000 general aviation aircraft that need to be equipped with ADS-B Out prior to the Jan. 1, 2020 airspace mandate. Airlines and business jet operators with “legacy aircraft” still flying need to be upgraded.

Questions are arising: what solutions will operators choose? Will there be enough equipment, FAA inspectors, facilities and workers to equip all the aircraft that need ADS-B upgrades before 2020? The current deadline only leaves four years for a large and extensive amount of work to be done. In the words of the AEA, 2016 could be “the year of the upgrade.”

So as we can see from this brief overview, the year ahead is going to be very interesting and full of activity – just like everything in aviation, on the go and always a-changing.

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