EBACE Convention News

ACJ completions center ramps up production

 - May 15, 2011, 8:30 PM

This year, Toulouse-based Airbus Corporate Jet Centre (Stand 7071) is set to reach its target of a regular annual production rate of three to four cabin deliveries. The Airbus subsidiary specializes in VIP cabin outfitting on the manufacturer’s narrowbodies, and its new products include a conversion kit and a service package for the ACJ family.

The company expects complete four cabins in 2011, which is at the upper end of its production goals. It marks a significant ramp-up in activity when compared to the seven cabins that ACJC has handed over between July 2007, when the company was formed, and last month. The order backlog calls for producing another six by the beginning of 2013, according to Bruno Galzin, sales and marketing manager.

Cabin completions are available for the A318, A319, A320 and A321 models. A VIP cabin costs between $20 million and $30 million, according to Galzin. For an aircraft equipped with a typical VIP cabin, Airbus’s list prices are $65 million for an A318 Elite, $80 million for an Airbus ACJ (based on an A319) and $85 million for an A320 Prestige. It has not yet confirmed a price for the larger A321.

ACJC is also increasing the array of technical services (under a Part 145 maintenance license) that it provides for A330 and A340 widebodies. Its new “VIP Pass” package is comprehensive but remains customizable and can include cabin maintenance, as well as upgrades, airframe maintenance, spares, continuing airworthiness and field support, Galzin said. Engine support is available for CFM International CFM56 engines and talks are under way with International Aero Engines, the second engine provider, for the other turbofan option (V2500s) to be included in the support offer.

Operators wanting to turn the conventional passenger layout of their A320-family aircraft into a combined commercial/VIP configuration can now buy a conversion kit. The conversion starts with removing the first 11 rows of seats and the VIP cabin section that replaces them consists of two club-four areas and a row of four seats. This allows the forward cabin of the aircraft to sleep eight people. A thicker carpet (12 millimeters, or about half an inch) comes in lieu of the conventional airline rug.

Options, such as small pieces of furniture, are available. A Part 145 maintenance organization can carry out the conversion process in eight hours. According to Galzin, ACJC technicians have managed to complete the work in five-and-a-half hours; he would not give a price for the kit.

The trend in VIP cabins, Galzin said, is that customers ask for the same kind of equipment they have at home. For example, ACJC is about to deliver an aircraft cabin featuring high-definition audio and video systems. “We are working on 3-D TV,” he added.

As for connectivity, the ACJC’s standard for Internet service is soon to be Swift Broadband with two 432 kbps channels. The first delivery is planned for 2012. An A320 delivered last December was outfitted with GSM onboard for in-flight mobile phone communications. Onboard Swift Broadband and GSM are available in retrofit, too.

Asked to name customers in the closely guarded VIP aircraft industry, Galzin would mention only two, both charter operators—UK-based Acropolis Aviation (the aircraft owner remains unknown) and DeerJet in China. Wealthy individuals are estimated to account for some 80 percent of the ACJC’s customers, and geographically, Europe and the Middle East are most prominent, while Asia is seen as a growing market.

Last year, ACJC had revenues of €50 million ($70 million). The center has about 100,000 sq ft of hangars and workshops, and a workforce slightly above 200. This is compared to a workforce of 117 in 2007, when ACJC took over from Sogerma, which had experience in VIP cabin outfitting. “The [workforce] is still increasing a bit, especially for services,” Galzin said.