The Roaring Silence….ABACE 2016, Shanghai
The loudest noise at the ABACE show in Shanghai this year wasn’t the applause for the usual show-piece announcements of Gulfstream, Bombardier and Falconjet orders from the major Chinese financial institutions….it was the jet noise emanating from the commercial airlines lining up for take-off clearance outside the ABACE wire perimeter , (probably all were delayed departures).
Despite the (as usual) very efficient organization by our NBAA staffers in coordination with their Chinese counterparts and the Hawker Pacific people, this show was clearly lacking the usual deal-buzz and high-profile delegations being carefully shepherded from OEM chalet to airstair steps. That said, our magazine, Bizjet Advisor (www.bizjetadvisor.com) was grabbed by almost every show attendee (so it seemed) and we ran out of even the re-stock copies.
We’re all pretty much aware of the unspoken reasons for this ‘shrinkage’ of the OEM order books in China, but nevertheless, the impact of the current policies, economic slowdown and pragmatism inside China can best be described as ‘sobering’.
What was interesting was the number of local Chinese vendors attempting to get ‘in on the act’. Given that the current total China-based bizjet population is probably less than the daily bizjet movements at Teterboro airport, these are indeed brave souls. Some, of course, are state-backed and therefore will weather any downturn. Others will be left to wonder what happened to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, at least in the short term.
Best and biggest news at this show….Uber ! For those of us that prefer traveling in taxis (thereby risking our lives) to the hotel shuttle (I’ve heard some weird ‘phone conversations on those shuttles), Uber and its Chinese imitator, DiDi, were a godsend. No more suicide missions and smoke-fogged backseats sans air-conditioning…every Uber ride was sheer bliss. Polite/prompt/safe drivers and every car was in the class of Audi/BMW/Lexus…the only catch, you need a China bank account to hail the Uber cars (clearly, that key factor was not understood by the various westerners that we witnessed stabbing at their smartphones in the hotel lobby).
As one of our aviation news-reporter friends commented after the show…”let’s hope it’s better next year”.