NBAA President & CEO Ed Bolen on Business Aviation in Asia

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NBAA President & CEO Ed Bolen on ABACE in Asia, how AsBAA and the Chinese Central Government promote general aviation and the future of business aviation in APAC.

Ed Bolen (00:11)

I remember when we did our first show — ABACE in 2005, and how different it has all been over the last decade plus, as we have really seen the Chinese economy grow. The whole Asian economy really moved to the forefront, as well as the degree of business aviation and the level of sophistication. The innovation that we’re seeing there has been really exciting to see from an international perspective.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (00:47)

Yeah, and you’ve kind of hit on all the reasons why I came up to Asia when I did. I remember my dad telling me that if I was your age, the place I would be is Asia because it really did represent a lot of those future opportunities. We’re still seeing them bear fruit today and coming to fruition.When you mention 2005 that was the show in Hong Kong?

Ed Bolen (01:14)

Yeah, that was the show in Hong Kong. Well, let me go back to 2005. We started in Shanghai. We were in Hong Kong 2006, 2007 and 2008 before we returned to Shanghai, but this time at the Hongqiao airport. So that’s really been in some ways what we think of as the ABACE that we know today. It’s kind of just seeing where ABACE has gone, let alone the whole Chinese industry.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (01:51)

I was commenting on that because I remember the first day of the first show in Hong Kong. I think it was out of the Hong Kong BAC in the hangar. We maybe had three or four airplanes in the static and all the booths inside the hangar. If you look at that compared to where ABACE is today. And, ABACE, for me, continues to grow every year and it’s been a great success. I mean those were the early days and I think the show was cut short because of a typhoon if I recall.

Ed Bolen (02:28)

You’re right. But it was to see now kind of through the years, you know, the first time a turboprop airplane ever landed in Hongqiao — because of ABACE. All in the one year we had the first ever piston plane, then the first ever civil helicopter. And the most recent edition, we were able to have the CEO of EHang talking about urban air mobility. So, when you consider how far it has come from the first ever turboprop at Hongqiao, all the way up to an Asian company. It really captured the imagination of the world. In the Urban Air Mobility sector, it’s been a remarkable transformation.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (03:19)

Yes, I agree in 100%. Much like you and your comments made earlier; I came out here in 1997. So, it’s been 23 or 24 odd years for me. And as you say, the change the region has gone through has just been extraordinary and still in a relatively short period of time.

Ed Bolen (03:39)

One of the things – candidly – we’ve been so encouraged about in China, for example, is how the government in the 12th Five Year Plan and the 13th Five Year Plan has been very forward looking in talking about the value of general aviation and the good jobs, the pilot jobs, the technician jobs, and the value of airports going forward. I think that’s one of the things that through the course of ABACE, we’ve been able to see dramatic growth in the number of airports in China. We don’t have what we need, but we’ve certainly come a long way from where we started.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (04:29)

Yeah. 100% agree with that. When people ask me and, likewise, my comments are that the Chinese government totally gets the value of general aviation and business aviation. It’s just they’re starting from not much now and they’re trying to grow it and build it as fast as they can. It’s an accelerated rate, but they certainly understand that they need to come from the top down, and they need to clearly understand also that they need to come from the bottom up in the grassroots and educate everyone that this is a potential career and this is where you can have your future. So, I agree with those comments for sure.

Ed Bolen (05:09)

The government has been particularly encouraging of the student days that AsBAA has really taken the lead on during ABACE where we are able to bring in college students not just from Shanghai but from all over China, to discuss the opportunities that are available. And I think that’s important going forward — capturing the attention of the imagination of young people to help them see the tremendous opportunity, the flexibility and the advanced technologies that are all part of business aviation. So it’s been encouraging to me to see the level of interest in business aviation and general aviation really growing throughout the region and I think that was really underscored when we were able to talk about urban Air Mobility and some of the world leadership that we see taking place in China, so just all very encouraging and, and we’re anxious to get back.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (06:26)

At Asian Sky Group, We’re big fans of the Discovery Program as well. And we’ve been for a number of years now on a regular basis hiring interns during the summer. And just giving – as you say, the youth the opportunity to experience our industry and see that what career paths there might be there. You know, one of the things about Asian Sky Group is we’re quite diverse in the different aspects of the business that we sort of touch and so there’s a good opportunity for them to experience a lot of different things. Certainly, as you’ve mentioned, the visibility that comes from the ABACE shows and that sort of thing is always helpful to the cause.

Ed Bolen (07:09)

It’s a show, so it’s an opportunity to showcase the quality of the jobs that are being created and the quality of the products of the technology involved and the craftsmanship involved.

And, we recognize that the business airplane is a business tool. It’s a tool that can allow you to turn travel time into productive work time. It can reduce the time out of office, it can move people who can discuss private matters in private and it allows you to move products as well. Maybe you’ve got equipment that is too big to go in a cargo hold or too sensitive to go in a cargo hold. All that helps to find business aviation which you know we have found in sometimes is the best way to accomplish a mission in some ways. It’s really the only way to accomplish the mission. So, there’s clearly a need for business aviation. It serves a very important niche. And, and we want to make sure everybody understands the inherent value in this tool. And when used appropriately, it can just do great things.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (08:34)

And then we’ll see EBACE soon, ABACE next year at the same normal times, assuming? And LABACE mustn’t forget them as well.

Ed Bolen (08:47)

ABACE will take place. It’s scheduled in April and EBACE takes place in May. I think that will be another important thing. Another important time. It’ll be springtime. And I think those shows will represent an exciting opening of the entire world. And we’re looking forward to those.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (09:13)

Anything new expected from ABACE? Or is it still too far out at this point in time?

Ed Bolen (09:24)

Well, obviously, as we discussed it at the start, ABACE has been kind of a fundamental milestone to mark Asia’s growing impact on world business aviation. We talked about kind of that full spectrum that we have seen over the course of the years and so it has been. I think it’ll mark another milestone next April when we continue to see the growth of Asian exhibitors and Asian operators. As well as the attraction that the market brings by pulling in all of the great international companies. So, it always represents an important milestone in the evolution of business aviation in Asia. It always brings out kind of the best the international world has to offer. But it also reflects Asian characteristics and Chinese characteristics, which makes it a really unique and important international show global show.

Jeffrey C. Lowe (10:35)

I guess last but not least, you know the Asia market is probably as well as the rest of us. You spent a lot of your time out here promoting the industry. Where do you see the opportunities and where do you see the future of the industry out here in particular?

We always talk about China but as we know, Asia encompasses a lot of different continents and countries. Any last sort of thoughts you have on the Asia-Pacific region?

Ed Bolen (11:09)

Well, I think one of the reasons that we are, and I’ve always been excited about ABACE is that the A stands for Asia. And we see that entire region as being a really exciting opportunity across the board, the population is significant. The geographic area is significant. And oftentimes the most efficient way to move people and products and services is by business aviation. So, as we all recognize, the Asian economy is strong. It’s impressive, it’s growing, and we expect it to continue to grow. So, we’re excited to help facilitate and work with organizations like AsBAA and Asian Sky Group to really help people understand the value of business aviation for what it is and to really promote the opportunities and the benefits it represents.

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