EBACE Convention News

BBJ cargo door a possibility

 - November 29, 2006, 10:46 AM

Boeing is here at EBACE floating the idea of adding another new member to its Boeing Business Jet family. The BBJ C would have the same airframe as the original BBJ (that is, based on the 737-700 fuselage and the -800 wing), but what would set it apart is a large cargo door in the side of the main deck. This would allow operators to use the aircraft for carrying bulky items such as cars, horses or equipment loaded in pallets.

Boeing Business Jets president Steven Hill told EBACE Convention News his team is testing demand for the concept. If it can find launch customers, the U.S. airframer is willing to develop the BBJ C as well as the new BBJ 3.

The BBJ C is essentially a utility aircraft–a multimission platform that could be used by governments or companies that need to move large pieces of hardware. The wingletted jet might also be useful in emergency medical or head-of-state transport configurations. It would feature nine fuel tanks for a maximum range of around 6,000 nm.

Meanwhile, in early discussions with prospective operators of the BBJ 3, the U.S. airframer is finding that the aircraft’s increased baggage-carrying capability is proving to be the main attraction–especially among Middle Eastern clients. The largest BBJ to date has been formally on the market for five months, having been announced at last November’s Dubai airshow.

The BBJ 3 is derived from the new 737-900ER airliner, and will feature yet more auxiliary fuel tanks than the earlier BBJs. It is priced, green, at $62.5 million–compared with $56.5 million for the smaller BBJ 2. The first available delivery slot is in July 2008.

The new BBJ will provide 1,120 sq ft of cabin space–35 percent more than the BBJ and 11 percent more than the BBJ 2. Boeing is looking to ensure that the BBJ 3 can carry some 250 five-cubic-foot pieces of baggage (compared with the 81-piece capacity of the BBJ and the 192-piece BBJ 2). Maximum range for the new aircraft, with five auxiliary fuel tanks will be 4,765 nm–enough to fly from Dubai to New York with a stop in Europe.

Still on the back burner at Boeing is a proposal for a smaller version of the BBJ, based on the 737-600 airframe. After presenting this idea, the manufacturer soon found that prospective customers were more inclined to super-size the BBJ rather than go for a Lite version. The smaller BBJ would be a direct competitor to the Airbus A318 Elite–a pure business transport, with no bedroom and with true transatlantic and transcontinental range.

At the same time, Boeing is also making proposals for VIP versions of its new 787 Dreamliner, which would offer global range in excess of 10,000 nm.

However, according to Hill, prospective customers seem to have been deterred from committing to the aircraft because Boeing cannot offer assured delivery slots for green 787s until 2012. “Given that the aircraft take a year or more to complete, it makes buyers think twice,” he said. “We’ve spoken to dozens of prospects but they all want earlier delivery.”