There is a paradox, business aviation is 30% down, but completion centres have never been so busy. Of course, heads-of-state, royal families, and even some high rollers remain unaffected by the recession, but this is not the whole story.
Swiss-based Jet Aviation has expanded in the USA. Lufthansa Technik and Marshall Aerospace with their business aviation centre are promoting corporate aircraft maintenance too.
Airlines who are suffering are deferring deliveries, so airframes are becoming available for VIP clients ahead of schedule and at a discount. Completion centres are therefore being pressured to accept them early. Meanwhile, many previous generation business jets are now due for refurbishment, and while airlines are looking to dump their regional jets, entrepreneurial opportunities exist to refurbish them to executive configurations, then offer them to customers for less than a new purchase. Part of the consolidation is also defensive. As the market contracts, OEMs are bringing more completion work in-house. Airlines slash capacity and offload and then refurbishment, interior upgrades, airborne Internet, adjustable LED lighting, and executive suites make a regional jet marketable as a corporate jet.
Lufthansa Technik (LHT) announced late last year that its completion and refurbishment centre at Tulsa, typically working on Falcons and Learjets, will deliver BBJs and its first A319. LHT is also repositioning narrow-body and RJ conversion support work to the former Swissair maintenance complex in Basel.
Similarly, Jet Aviation has been adding major hangar expansions on both continents. Fokker Services has moved into ACJ series completions and has a two-year business jet backlog. Comlux Completions USA is a new player, having bought into Airbus’s ACJ Completions Centre in Toulouse, while its Zurich based Creatives division designs, specs and manages completions projects.
In the UK, Cambridge City Airport will now be known as Marshall Airport Cambridge with a new Marshall Business Aviation Centre with integrated corporate maintenance facility.