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Monday, November 16, 2015

10-Year Forecast Shows Strong Possibilities for Connected Biz Jets

Woodrow Bellamy III

[Avionics Today 11-16-2016] Honeywell's 2015 business aviation outlook projects a slow growth market for purchases of new business jets, while predicting healthy demand for operators to invest in cockpit and cabin upgrades to boost the flight efficiency, performance and connectivity capabilities for their aircraft. The forecast projects demand for 9,200 new business jets through 2025, with North America keeping the lion's share of the global market at 61 percent and Brazil being one of the few bright spots for growth, albeit slow during the next decade.

The forecast, though, reflects some of the aftermarket activity featured in the recent Avionics Magazine article examining business aviation operational investments. In this article, power players such as Vista Jet, Wheels Up, and Delta Private Jets discussed plans to invest in unique connected aircraft technologies both in the cabin and the cockpit, and data communications technologies designed to reduce pilot workload, help better track the aircraft, and design flight plans with optimal fuel and payloads based on unique mission profiles.
Photo: Honeywell
Regionally, the Honeywell forecast found that operators in Brazil are reporting the strongest new aircraft purchase plans among all of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries surveyed. Purchasing plans for operators in Brazil have been strong nearly every year since Honeywell first started surveying operators in the BRIC countries in 2011. With the absence of an air-to-ground network in Brazil and many other countries in Latin America, business aviation operators there looking to add In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) to existing and future aircraft in their fleets will need satellite-based solutions. Honeywell projects nearly 48 percent of Latin American business aviation operators' purchases of new aircraft will occur between 2015 and 2017. 
One aspect of the forecast that bodes well for companies such as Honeywell and its competitors that are developing and releasing next generation, satellite-based high-speed connectivity solutions for both the cockpit and cabin, are the used aircraft purchase plans that the survey found. Across all regions surveyed, with the exception of the Middle East and Africa, operators increased their used jet acquisition plans by nearly 4 percentage points compared to last year's survey. That equates to 32 percent of aircraft fleets of the operators surveyed, which is a good indication for those used aircraft buyers who want to consider upgrading their aircraft from the connectivity solutions they were equipped with to the types of high-speed solutions coming into the market today. 
During the pre-NBAA 2015 media briefing, Honeywell Aerospace Vice President of Safety and Connectivity Jack Jacobs and Vice President of Marketing and Product Management Carl Esposito featured updates about the company’s JetWave platform. According to Jacobs, the JetWave satellite communications hardware provided through Inmarsat's GX Aviation Ka-band network has been recently confirmed as being capable of delivering data rates of up to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) to aircraft. 
Considering that business jet operators are flown with much fewer passengers in the cabin, that type of performance has strong implications for Honeywell in business aviation, as the company awaits certification for JetWave on several platforms, including 15 Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) currently being worked on. The company is also in discussion with Airbus and Boeing for line-fit consideration of their JetWave hardware on several different airframes, although Jacobs and Esposito did not give a projected timeline for when those line fit approvals are likely to occur.
Honeywell will have some strong competition, though, for getting its next generation connectivity offering into business jet airframes for cockpit and cabin use. Gogo, Rockwell Collins, Satcom Direct and others have several high speed solutions in development and already on the market. However, Honeywell is positioning itself for a strong showing in business aviation as already. Prior to the start of NBAA 2015, Honeywell announced it has signed an agreement to acquire communications routing software provider Satcom1. Gogo also announced the availability of an expanded suite of cockpit and data link services for business aviation from Honeywell's Global Data Center (GDC), including Inmarsat Classic Aero voice and data services for flight planning, data link, graphical cockpit and weather information and flight tracking capabilities. 
"While the sluggish economic growth and political tensions are driving a more reserved approach to purchasing, we are seeing operators invest in retrofits and upgrades for their existing aircraft, especially around connectivity, boosting aftermarket opportunities,” Brian Sill, president of business and general aviation at Honeywell, said during his presentation of the 2015 10-year outlook.
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