Airbus Corporate Jets is launching its new Gala cabin concept for the ACJ330/340 wide-bodies here at MEBA 2012. The choice of Dubai for the announcement should come as no surprise: the Middle East represents the most important market in the world for wide-body business and VIP aircraft.
Airbus Corporate Jets is seeing renewed interest in the wide-body sector and has launched Gala in response. The concept is applicable to A330 and A340 aircraft, which share a common basic structure, with cab theins between doors two and three being essentially identical. In this cabin zone Airbus proposes the installation of a VVIP fit encompassing a master bedroom, master office and conference area. Governments requiring head-of-state aircraft are seen as the main potential customers.
With Gala, Airbus is seeking to reduce the cost and delivery time for wide-body VIP aircraft. Under a traditional procurement program, an airframe would be acquired, followed by the design and engineering of the specialist interior, and then the actual installation would take place. Under the Gala concept, the interior would be pre-engineered and ready for fitment when the aircraft arrives. The interior installation could be pre-bid to achieve cost savings, and the whole procurement process would be accomplished in as little as 18 months (for an aircraft with refit only in the door-two-to-three zone). That would include about six months of pre-engineering phase, followed by 12 months of installation. A full-cabin refit package would typically take 18 months to perform.
While Gala is aimed at all A330s and A340s, the A340-500 is the most obvious candidate, as it offers the greatest range of the family. Although the A340 is now out of production, ex-airline aircraft in excellent condition are becoming available. Singapore Airlines, for example, is returning five A340-500s to Airbus as they are replaced by A380s. The A340-500s have routinely flown on the Singapore-New York route with full airliner loads, illustrating the huge range potential of the type.
Airbus expects to get its first aircraft back from Singapore Airlines in the last quarter of 2013, and is hoping to firm up interest in the Gala VVIP conversion over the next few months so that the engineering process can begin. A number of approved outfitters have been approached. Although the A340 is no longer available from new, the type is generating a lot of interest, and Airbus is currently working on outfitting an A340-200 for a Saudi customer. Under the Gala concept the original seating and interior can be retained in the aft cabin, if desired to save costs, although customers can also specify from a range of new fitting options.
Also here at MEBA Airbus Corporate Jets is displaying two aircraft from its single-aisle family: an ACJ318 from Al Jaber and a privately owned ACJ319. With the ACJ318 proving particularly popular in the region on account of its good cargo volume, the company is also promoting the ACJ318 Enhanced, which was announced at NBAA in Orlando, Florida a few weeks ago.