Business & GA

Strong Aftermarket For Bizjet Technology Upgrades Continues

By Woodrow Bellamy III | October 9, 2017

Dassault Falcon 8X in production. Photo: Dassault Falcon.

While the annual Honeywell Aerospace business jet outlook projected another decline in new deliveries for 2017, avionics OEMs, installation shops and aircraft internet service providers can positives in the latest forecast. The forecast, combined with new product announcements on the day before the start of NBAA 2017 shows the aftermarket for in service business jets is ripe for retrofits with new avionics and connectivity technologies.

The annual global business aviation outlook from Honeywell is forecasting 8,300 deliveries valued at $249 billion through 2027, which the OEM notes is a drop of “2-3” percentage points from their 2016 10-year forecast. In 2017, the forecast sees a business aircraft makers delivering up to 640 new jets, which would be 30 fewer jet deliveries than occurred in 2016. Ben Driggs, president, Americas Aftermarket, for Honeywell Aerospace, told Avionics that he believes the market for new jet deliveries will rebound modestly in the next few years with new aircraft models scheduled to enter service and reach a normalized production schedule by 2019.

“Some have just entered and are ramping up, examples would be the Global 7000, the Gulfstream G500/600, Dassault’s 5X, the Cessna Longitude, which will be entering service shortly, and the Pilatus PC-24. Those are six new aircraft all of which bring better value to the market in terms of their range, cabin comfort and efficiency, those are examples, of some of the new aircraft that will help to spur new demand. By 2019 many of those will be at a production rate which really starts to drive an increase in deliveries,” said Driggs.

The survey gathers its forecasting information through interviews with more than 1,500 non-fractional business jet operators globally. Regionally, North America will remain the strongest market globally for new business jet deliveries, as the region currently has 65 percent of the installed base, and 39 percent of operators based in North America plan to make new jet purchases in either 2018 or 2019.

But the forecast isn’t necessarily negative for the business aviation industry,  because as Avionics noted in its article on the 2015 forecast, if lower delivery numbers means that operators are keeping jets longer, those in service jets can benefit from new displays, new internet service and new ADS-B transponders among other upgrades.

If the lineup of new products announced by providers of these technologies the day before the start of NBAA is any indication, it shows avionics OEMs and suppliers are responding to demand from business aviation operators for aftermarket upgrades.

For example, Honeywell itself unveiled new touchscreen capabilities for its Primus Epic cockpit displays for the first time at its pre NBAA reception. The displays have zoom, screen manipulation and routing and waypoint configuration capabilities that are similar to the pinch and pull touchscreen features on an iPhone or iPad. The OEM also announced its 100th installation of its new JetWave system, which is the onboard component that powers Inmarsat’s new Jet Connex service for business jet owners.

Honeywell’s biggest competitor, Rockwell Collins, unveiled a new version of its TDR-94/94D Mode S transponder, which now has the ability to automatically generate a fixed flight ID from the Mode S code for U.S. registered aircraft. According to Rockwell Collins, existing business jet operators that do not have a flight ID to send from a controller would not need to upgrade “other parts” of their avionics system to become compliant if they upgrade with the new version of the TDR-94/94D. Rockwell Collins also introduced a new Jet Connex tool designed to allow business aviation operators to manage data usage associated with Inmarsat connectivity featured on their aircraft.

Other technology providers that see connected aircraft opportunities in business aviation include Cobham Satcom, which announced the availability of its Aviator 300D satcom system in combination with Avionica’s avWiFi intelligent routers, enabling Swift Broadband Safety FANS/CPDLC/ADC-S/ACARS/Cockpit Voice, while still benefiting from SwiftBroadband in the cabin for non-safety related voice and data use. Canadian manufacturer Latitude Technologies also announced the availability of its new safety services satellite voice communications system for the Pilatus PC-24 ahead of NBAA.

Olivier Villa, executive vice president of Dassault Aviation’s civil aircraft division, also told journalists during the Dassault pre-NBAA press conference that they’re making Honeywell’s JetWave Ka-band system an option on all in-production Falcon business jets. Villa said this decision was made in response to demand from in-service Falcon operators for faster connectivity technologies on their aircraft.

The Aircraft Electronics Assn.’s (AEA) recent report on retrofit sales of business and general aviation avionics also confirmed the strong aftermarket environment for business jet upgrades. Of the more than $1.14 billion in sales during the first six months of 2017, 56.2 percent came from the retrofit market while forward-fit sales amounted to 43.8 percent of purchasing.

Honeywell’s Driggs said that he does see that the demand for retrofits as well in the aftermarket, especially those that create value.

“I think that the demand for retrofits and improving existing aircraft exists, and everyone wants to see value from those retrofits. Connectivity is one of those components that operators find value in. We’re forecasting growth for new jet deliveries to return in 2018 and beyond, and many of those new jets will have broadband internet connectivity come with the aircraft. People who are holding on to the older models, they’ll want that same level of connectivity as well. It’s starting to become something that people must have on any big cabin aircraft,” said Driggs.

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