BAE breathes new life into Avro Business Jets

 - May 3, 2010, 12:18 PM

BAE Systems Regional Aircraft and Cello Aviation are jointly showing a newly converted Avro Business Jet (ABJ) here on the EBACE static display. The aircraft has just been extensively remodeled by BAE’s completions partner Inflite Engineering.

Today BAE is expected to unveil plans for some innovative new interior concepts for the ABJ family of converted regional airliners. They have been developed in partnership with Design Q and are expected to be unveiled under the brand name Explorer.

The Cello ABJ is a former BAe 146-300 regional jet, which now features 46 first-class seats, four-abreast, with a 43-inch pitch. The cabin can be reconfigured for 44 seats with a club four arrangement at the front and also features a hot galley. Cello, which is part of the UK’s Gill Group, acquired the aircraft late last year and will operate it in the executive charter market, mainly for moving sports teams and groups of entertainers.

BAE also recently delivered an ABJ to Abu Dhabi’s Presidential Flight–this time a converted Avro RJ-100. Inflite itself has recently acquired another ABJ, which it will fit with a new interior developed by the Linley design group.

Over the past two years, 13 of the 146/RJ family have been converted for corporate and VIP use. There are about 25 of the four-engine jets operating in
the business aviation sector today.

According to Stewart Cordner, ABJ vice president for BAE Systems Asset Management, aircraft that were first developed as airliners in the mid-1980s still have plenty to offer bizav operators in the second decade of the 21st century. Apart from very generous cabin space (similar to that found in the new Embraer Lineage), the ABJs have great operational flexibility with good runway performance and built-in stairs and electrical power.

Most of the aircraft available for conversion to ABJ format have been leased by airlines and are typically 15 to 20 years old with about 25,000 cycles. The aircraft has a life limit of 60,000 cycles and most of its systems are subject to on-condition maintenance.

Addressing commonly ex-pressed concern about the fuel efficiency of an aircraft that has twice as many engines as most purpose-built bizjets, Cordner pointed out that the ABJ’s LF502 or LF507 engines were designed by Textron Lycoming in the 1980s as geared turbofans–an engineering approach that is now back in fashion with green credentials. Furthermore, there are only two generators among the four engines so the aircraft effectively has a two-engine architecture with four thrust points. In any case, claims BAE, for typical corporate operations flying less than 1,500 hours per year any fuel burn differential is insignificant in cost terms. The engines meet ICAO’s Stage 4 noise restrictions.

The pre-owned aircraft are priced at between around $2 million for a 146 and up to
$7 million for a low-time RJ100. The cost of overhaul and cabin conversion can add anything from another $3 million to $7 million.

The various ABJ cabins offer between 5,000 and 6,555 cu ft of space and seem especially roomy when the standard airline overhead bins have been removed. The ceiling height runs from 6 feet 2 inches to 6 feet 5 inches, and the cabin has four doors to allow for two separate exits. Maximum range is up to around 1,800 nm.