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AIR OPS Europe 2017 Highlights and Wrap-Up

Europe’s premier event for business aviation flight operations professionals saw a significant rise in attendance and enthusiasm at its second annual edition in September 2017. The two-day event, featuring a conference and exhibition, along with practical training opportunities and insightful information sessions, was held at Cannes-Mandelieu Airport in the south of France, from 20-21 September.

“AIR OPS Europe answers the need for a platform for the BizAv community to build relationships, strengthen skillsets, drive competitiveness, and better position themselves for the future,” says Brandon Mitchener, CEO of EBAA.

At the show’s opening, keynote speaker Claire-Anne Reix of the office of the mayor of Cannes, emphasized the importance of business aviation for the local and regional economy.

The other keynote speaker, Thierry Pollet, Director of Cannes Airport, confirmed his group’s satisfaction at hosting an event that enhances the appeal of a sector so vital to business and the local community.

Feedback from attendees, exhibitors and organizers alike confirms AIR OPS Europe’s value to the business aviation industry. AIR OPS Europe 2017 drew some 30% more exhibitors and twice as many attendees as the first edition last year.

According to Bettina Auwärter BMW Flight Service, AIR OPS is useful because, “it’s important to get connected with other operators,” as well as “getting an overview of developments in the industry.” She also followed one of the recurrent courses, “which was a great refresher for me,” she adds.

Enthusiastic exhibitors

Among the 40 exhibitors were many of the key names in business aviation flight operations, ground handling and airports, harnessing this exceptional opportunity to reach hundreds of business aviation flight operations and ground support professionals in one convenient location.

“This is a unique and valuable opportunity for the airport and ground services community in Europe to network, discuss issues and build closer relationships with customers and prospects,” says Edwin Niemöller, FBO Director, KLM Jet Center. He added that his team will be returning to AIR OPS next year.

“AIR OPS Europe is a very convenient industry event,” confirms Andreas Becker, CEO and Founder, GAS German Aviation Service. “I can really take my time to sit down with customers and partners and have serious, valuable discussions, which is why we will be back in 2018,” he emphasizes.

Convenient training opportunity

AIR OPS Europe offered an opportune and practical array of training opportunities for business aviation flight operations and ground support professionals while in Cannes. Not only was it an added convenience for attendees to be able to combine the training they need with all the opportunities AIR OPS Europe offers, but they received free entrance to the event with their training registration fee.

The training agenda included such offerings as IS-BAH Fundamentals and Auditing Workshops, Flight Dispatch Recurrent Course, Accountable Managers & Nominated Persons (EASA-required), Advanced Flight Dispatch Techniques, and NATA Safety 1st Advanced Ground Handling Safety Programme, among others.

One of those attending AIR OPS Europe for training purposes was Safwene Ammar, FlyEasy Global Operations, who came to get updated on EASA standards. He also attended because “the location is nice” and he was able to “meet people from different locations and cultures to exchange experiences.”

State of the Industry

Some of the most pressing issues facing business aviation operators, ground handlers and airports were on the conference agenda. These included the state of the industry, how technology is disrupting aviation, managing service excellence, regulatory changes impacting flight planning, threats and opportunities facing European airports, and more.

Opening the state of the industry session, Arthur Thomas, EBAA manager of statistics and economic affairs, pointed to a significant upturn in business aviation traffic this year, with 10 months of uninterrupted growth. He emphasized that 2017 has been the best start to a year since 2008 in the European market. Many of Europe’s top 30 business aviation airports have also seen their best year for many years.

Richard Koe of WingX said his company had observed 3% growth this year, with some 20,000 additional flights in 2017 as traffic has continued to recover. He confirmed that it was the first time in a decade that Europe had seen this volume of flights. However, he cautioned that average hours flown per aircraft were still low, with utilization levels down 3%. Moreover, on-demand charter is driving the growth overall, up more than 10% in Europe in the first half of this year alone.

Charter is also being stimulated by new business models and electronic smartphone apps,
as well as by a capacity glut. He predicted that consolidation among operators would continue in Europe, driving greater efficiencies and reduced prices, and in turn propelling further growth.

On the downside, manufacturers are still struggling to sell new aircraft, he added, stating that deliveries were down 60% compared to 2008, with the sharing economy due to see massive growth.

He concluded that the aftermarket would be a clear winner of this shift, suggesting that customer support would be a major focus as OEMs position themselves for when companies start to replace aircraft again.

Connected World of Aviation

A new highlight of this year’s event was an innovation corner, featuring cutting edge service providers. “The Connected World of Aviation is a group of aviation technology companies who believe that, through simple, easy and free sharing of data, we can dramatically add value to business aviation,” says Paolo Sommariva, CEO FL3XX.

These technology companies share a common vision of a future in which those using or operating business aircraft will be able to use one interface to manage the entire process, including worldwide pricing and quotes, flight planning, catering, ground handling, chauffeur services and much more.

The Connected World of Aviation was warmly welcomed as an innovation in of itself, providing an entry point for smaller companies on a tighter budget to take part in this key event on the business aviation calendar, with many expressing the hope that it would return or even be expanded next year.