Cessna targets jets at Asian high-flyers

High fees, shortage of pilots impeding sales

Asia has emerged as a fast-growing market for executive jets, with the 15% annual growth rate seen in the past three years expected to continue.

The mid-sized Citation XLS+ business jet is driving Cessna’s sales campaign in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.

Cessna, the world's leading general aviation firm, is aggressively pitching against rivals to capture sales of private jets whose demand has been spurred by the region's growing numbers of elite travellers such as tycoons, top executives and wealthy personalities.

"We believe this [growth] trend will continue," Bill Harris, Cessna's vice-president for international sales, told the Bangkok Post.

Executive jet producers are particularly targeting major markets such China, India and Australia, but are also looking at emerging countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and even Thailand, where about 10 private jets are being operated.

Figures provided by Kansas-based Cessna showed the top five markets in terms of executive jets in service in Asia plus Australia are China including Hong Kong (197), Australia (187), India (167), Japan (77) and Malaysia (41).

A new forecast released last month by the Canadian plane maker Bombardier pointed to China as the third-largest market after North America and Europe in taking new business jets over the next 20 years, with 1,000 deliveries from 2013-22 and 1,420 from 2023-32.

Worldwide business aviation demand is projected to be 24,000 aircraft worth US$650 billion from 2013-32, according to Bombardier.

While declining to say specifically how many business jets it targets to sell in Asia, Mr Harris said Cessna, which claims a 53% share of the light and mid-sized jet market worldwide in terms of 2012 deliveries, wants to "sell as many as we possibly can".

Though infrastructure serving executive jets is improving in Asia, he said the relatively high landing and air route fees and a shortage of trained pilots and engineers were impeding the sales of private jets throughout the region.

Cessna has opened an aircraft service centre in Singapore to serve its customers in this part of the world, Mr Harris said.

Its current sales campaign in Southeast Asia concentrates on the Citation XLS+, a mid-sized business jet that Cessna believes is ideal for elite travellers.

The aircraft, which cruises at 815 km/h over a range of 3,500 kilometres with up to nine passengers, is an updated version of Cessna's Citations family, the best-selling business jet in the world with more than 6,300 planes in operation. A base-line Citation XLS+ costs $13 million.

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Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business