This year’s National Business Aviation Association – Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) was held from October 18-20 in Orlando, Florida. With more than 1,000 exhibitors, over 30 education sessions, and dozens of aircraft on static display, NBAA-BACE provided a perfect opportunity for the business aviation community to learn about the latest products and services.
The 2022 NBAA-BACE was just the second held since the start of COVID-19. Despite the new challenges of inflation, recession, and a struggling stock market, people were optimistic. Business aviation has made a rapid comeback recently, partly fuelled by new entrants to the sector.
Key Topics at NBAA-BACE 2022
Sustainability, workforce challenges, and technology were key discussion topics at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition this year.
In particular, the growing focus on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) generated a lot of conversation. There was also an emerging technology zone that showcased advanced air mobility aircraft, along with new developments in hydrogen and electric propulsion. The people in the industry were a common theme too. Discussion sessions noted the important atmosphere of bringing people together, especially with the workforce shortage struggle, and the flow-on effects creating major supply chain challenges.
Greater cooperation between aviation sectors was also raised. Though commercial and business aviation traditionally operate independently, much of the new technology is applicable to both. The massive exhibit floor included a display by Lufthansa Technik showing how a Boeing 787 can be converted into a business jet with a VIP interior.
Below is a brief spotlight on two show features at NBAA-BACE 2022 – Gulfstream’s expanding fleet and Vision Systems’ business aviation cabin window technology.
Gulfstream’s Expanding Fleet
Gulfstream is expanding its fleet and ramping up production and certification of three new aircraft – the G700, G800, and G400.
The G700 and the G800 should both be certified in 2023. There are five aircraft in the G700 test program and two G800s (due to the common platform with the G700). Two fully outfitted G700 test aircraft will begin a world tour following being on display at NBAA-BACE. These jets will be touring 20 different cities across Mexico, Europe, Turkey Southeast Asia, the Middle East, India, and Africa. The first of these G700s test aircraft flew in April 2021 and the second in September 2022.
As part of the convention, Gulfstream’s test pilot Eric Holmberg spoke about flying the G800, which also debuted at NBAA-BACE 2022. The G800 will be the longest-range aircraft in Gulfstream’s new aircraft family. Holmberg is test-flying the very first G800, which is the only test-flying aircraft in the G800 program so far. Test flights of the G800 began in May 2022 and have included envelope expansion, reaching 55,000 ft and 0.925 mach, as well as achieving the first international flight in a G800. With the similarities to the G700, including the two powerful Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines, only about a third of the testing is needed for the G800 compared to the G700. A lot of the testing is to confirm the performance data to write the flight manual, such as take-off and landing performance, and climb and cruise performance. Tests still to be done include fuel performance, cold weather, and icing.
Gulfstream also had a full-sized G400 cabin mock-up on display. The G400 fits in between their super-midsize G280 and the large-cabin G500/G600. The first deliveries of the G400 are on target for 2025. Gulfstream announced, that due to high demand across the range of Gulfstreams, they are expanding manufacturing facilities for the G400, G500, and G600. Additionally, they will be manufacturing the G650 longer than expected, even though the G700 is indented to replace it. Gulfstream is also continuing to invest in the G280 which will feature a lower cabin altitude (down from 6,000 ft. to 4,800 ft) and have exterior LED light.
Expect to see a few new Gulfstream aircraft delivered at the end of 2023, with the rest planned for 2024 and 2025.
Vision Systems’ Business Aviation Cabin Window Technology
Vision Systems was one of two companies at NBAA-BACE showing their cabin windows that control natural light. Aerospace Technologies Group (ATG) also exhibited its products but is currently focused on bringing a business-class experience to the commercial widebody and single-aisle market. Vision Systems displayed its evolving Nuance SPD (suspended particle display) dimmable windows for business aviation.
The Nuance SPD dimmable system has a laminated film between two window panels of either glass or polycarbonate, or composite glass. The laminated film responds to voltage. When switched off the film particles disperse, and light is absorbed. When there is power to the film the particles align and light can pass through. It can change from fully dark to fully clear in less than 1 second. The Nuance system also provides heat protection by blocking ultraviolet and infrared light. The double window shade, with mood lighting, is motorised and each individual window can be controlled by a tablet. The windows can also be controlled from the flight attendant master panel and coordinated for different phases of the flight.
The system can be installed on flat or curved surfaces, as well as over large areas. Vision Systems is currently testing a version for cockpit windows on an ‘undisclosed’ business aircraft.
This year’s NBAA-BACE was a success. Attendance was strong and there was a substantial number of new business aircraft on display. Gulfstream had a strong presence with their latest aircraft, the G700 and G800, as well as their upcoming G400 model. There were many new developments showcased including Vision Systems’ cabin windows. The 2022 Convention and Exhibition shows the resilience in the sector despite recent challenges, and that business aviation is set to capture the evolving business passenger market.