Podcast: Highlights From NBAA-BACE 2023

Recorded live from NBAA-BACE 2023 in Las Vegas, Jeremy Kariuki, Molly McMillin, Guy Norris, Lee Ann Shay and Bill Carey share their favorite moments from the show.

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Rush Transcript

Jeremy Kariuki:

Hello and welcome to the BCA podcast, live from NBAA-BACE 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I'm Jeremy Kariuki, Aviation Week associate editor of Business Aviation, and I'm joined by Molly McMillin, Guy Norris, Lee Ann Shay, and Bill Carey. We're going to talk about our highlights from this week's show. There's a lot that happened this week. Molly, I'd love to start with you. What did you see at the show this week?

Molly McMillin:

Hi, Jeremy. Thanks for having us on, and thanks for listening. It's been a busy show and a busy week. One of the things that was interesting in that, in a survey of owners and operators by JetNet, they found that the mood is better or increasing in the business jet industry. During the last few quarters, the industry was in a funk. But the mood has picked up since then, when the latest survey showed 55% (of respondents) think that we are past the low point, 38% thought we weren't past the low point, while 7% thought we're at the lowest point now.

Some of the manufacturers are solely at the static display instead of in the convention center and at the static, which is a little bit of a change from years past. The show floor has been busy at some times and not as busy at others. But there's probably 800 or so exhibitors here. I think they were expecting about 20,000 people.

Textron kicked off the show with the announcement of the Citation CJ3 Gen2 reveal with the most comprehensive upgrade of one of their Gen2 products. They do have that on static display as well as a mock-up of the Citation Ascend. Both are mock-ups. They have sustainable interiors, which is... I know sustainability is a big issue and all the products that are in the mock-ups are sustainably sourced or are sustainable products.

HondaJet also talked about its HondaJet 2,600 Concept airplane. They announced its new name, the HondaJet Echelon and gave an update on [the program]. They have about 350 letters of intent. They said they don't have a firm order... I mean, firm order or launch customer yet because they're still settling on a price. Those are a couple of the highlights from this week.

Bill Carey:

Thanks, Jeremy. Bill Carey here. I'm an in-flight connectivity geek and specifically in satellite communication. In that corner of the industry, there's been some pretty interesting developments. In the aftermath of the ViaSat acquisition of Inmarsat, which closed in May, three suppliers of satellite communications terminals for those companies have announced new developments that'll be able to connect with current and future Inmarsat GX and ViaSat-3 High-Capacity Ka-band satellites to provide broadband connectivity to the aircraft. Those three developments were announced by Honeywell Aerospace, Satcom Direct, and Orbit Communications.

In some cases, the satellite communications terminals will be upgraded to ViaSat-3 capability. I'm told that the Honeywell system will come prepared for both systems. Inmarsat and ViaSat have different waveforms that have to be accommodated in the SATCOM terminal.

Also, interestingly, ViaSat recently launched, in April, its first of three ViaSat-3 high-capacity Ka-band satellites, which subsequently malfunctioned in space: failed to properly deploy its antenna reflector, which concentrates the signal on the geographic region. In this case, it was ViaSat-3 Americas. They had not revealed, until very recently and just before NBAA-BACE, as a matter of fact, whether or not that satellite was a total loss in a perhaps $400 million insurance claim. They just revealed, in the past few days... And I'm told at NBAA-BACE that they have determined that that satellite is able to recover 10% of its throughput capacity. It was launched as a terabyte-class satellite. What's 10% of a terabyte? It is 100-something bytes. They're hopeful of retaining that capacity and, in addition to other current and planned Inmarsat and ViaSat satellites, maintain their coverage commitments to both airlines and business jets.

Speaker 4:

Lee Ann Shay here. Thank you. I want to point out that our colleague, Molly McMillin, received the NBAA Gold Wing Award this week. I would say that is one of my highlights. We're thrilled that Molly is receiving that recognition. Piggybacking on what Molly said, I was talking to IADA, the International Aircraft Dealers Association. They also said that their members in their third quarter survey are much more optimistic. In looking into the Q4 cycle, which tends to be a crazy period for closing for business aircraft, they said it's more normalized.

Last year, there were a lot of aircraft transactions. The used aircraft transactions that were going through, the acquisition price without maintenance checks, without pre-buy inspections, and that craziness, they're not expecting to happen, although the MRO market is still tight. Some brokers are booking MRO slots without having an aircraft that needs a pre-buy just to make sure that they're getting that slot.

The MRO market is big. Aviation Week, in its latest forecast, is projecting the business aviation MRO market to be worth about $12 billion. Big chunk of change there. A big announcement happened yesterday here at NBAA. West Star Aviation, which is part of the Sterling Group, had a purchase agreement for Jet East, which is part of Gamma for a $131 million acquisition. That deal is supposed to close in the next couple of weeks.

I'd say the third thing is sustainability. We've talked about this. But NBAA, along with 10 other aviation associations, launched the Climbing Fast campaign to really coalesce and bring visibility into what the industry, overall, is doing. However, since that announcement, I think there's been a lot of practical questions from people in the industry, from pilots like, "What do I do? I don't have the authorization to buy SAF. What's book and claim? How does this work?" I think it's great that the industry is getting together and being very proactive. But there's still some questions out there.

Guy Norris:

Yeah. Thanks, Lee Ann. That's actually a good segue to what I was going to talk about. First of all, it's been an excellent show. We've had a lot of celebrations about Molly, of course. By now, I think it's... What? Day three or something. I feel I need to drink some sustainable aviation fuel just to keep going to the end. But anyway, that's my take on SAF. But I did want to say that that sustainable aspect of the show has just been a theme that's run right the way through it.

It started with Bombardier showing more of a glimpse, really, of their Eco Jet, which, of course, is their blended wing concept study, really a technology investigation more than a product leader. But it's a shining light on the horizon of what potentially could happen. It's in the early days. They're flying it in a to-be-disclosed secret location somewhere in North America. Been asking all my Canadian friends if they recognize it: the background to the video, saying, "Well, hey. Where does that weird red-colored crop grow in that part of…." We're narrowing it down to provinces, and that's about it so far.

But anyway, very promising. 50% fuel burn reduction goal. How on earth do you achieve that? Well, shaping, which is what the blended wing body's all about, advanced propulsion, which is another great way of saying that, "Yes, a BWB will allow you to put anything from hybrid electric to hydrogen fuel and advanced propulsions on top of that," and lightweight structures. It's all coming together. But it's a long way to go. Anyway, it was good to see that. Good to show the little video clips that they showed us.

Then, the other thing was really just really what you were saying, Lee Ann, about questions being asked. One of the big subjects is about SAF here, of course. Yesterday, our ShowNews editor here, Thierry (Dubois), insisted I go along and be part of this SAF quiz show, like a game show for SAF. It was really actually a very good way of, I think, explaining/answering questions. I had to choose a name, so I was Gas Hog. I don't know why. But I was Gas Hog. I didn't do brilliantly because whatever, but I think I knew most of the answers. I've been writing about it for quite a while. Shame on me for not getting 100%.

But anyway, the point was the audience was a mixed bag of operators and people who were just curious about what it was all about. I think there were a lot of questions. One of the things that was really great and inspiring to me was the fact that business aviation does seem to be, let's say, punching above its weight. Last year, between 10% to 12% of all of the SAF produced in the U.S. found its way into private aircraft. Business aviation actually consumes only three and a half or 4% of all jet fuel in the U.S. Definitely punching above its weight. Lots to follow, I think.

Jeremy Kariuki:

Lots to follow, indeed. As somebody who's coming to this show for the first time, it's just amazing to see all the new technologies and the new developments from all of these OEMs, from all of these manufacturers. It's truly an amazing show to be at. If the next one is as exciting as this one, then I'm so excited to go.

Thank you all again for joining me today on the podcast. It's been a pleasure reporting alongside you in person for once. It's always a pleasure to just be around you and to see us work together.

This week's episode was produced by Guy Ferneyhough. If you enjoyed the show, please give us a like or follow on your podcast app of choice. Just search BCA podcast. If you're listing on Apple Podcasts, make sure to leave us a rating. Thank you for listening, and have a good rest of your day.

Jeremy Kariuki

Jeremy Kariuki is Associate Editor for Business Aviation, based in Atlanta. Before joining Aviation Week in April 2023, Jeremy served as a writer for FLYING Magazine, FreightWaves and the Center for Sustainable Journalism.

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.

Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.

Bill Carey

Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.