After celebrating its 10th year with record sales of 19 aircraft, Boeing Business Jets has logged 30 sales since last year’s NBAA Convention, said Steve Hill, BBJ president, at a press conference here in the Georgia World Congress Center on Monday. Total value of the orders increased from $2.25 billion last year to $2.9 billion this year. Included in this total are 16 BBJs, two BBJ2s, three BBJ3s, two 747-8 VIPs and seven 787 VIPs. Not included in the total are two more 787s that customers bought from leasing companies to be converted to VIP configurations. A total of 151 BBJ and VIP aircraft have been sold to date.
Regarding these orders, private customers represent 60 percent of sales; government, 7 percent and corporate, 3 percent. By regions, the sales divide into four nearly equal quadrants, said Hill: Middle East (29 percent), North America (26 percent), Europe (23 percent) and the rest of the world [Asia Pacific (17 percent), Africa (3 percent) and Latin America (2 percent)].
But this strong sales activity is a good-news/bad-news situation for BBJ, Hill said. Backlogs and strong sales to airlines have created an availability problem. If you order any model of the BBJ today, you won’t receive it until the first quarter of 2013. You can get a 777 VIP in the fourth quarter of 2012, but you have to wait until the second quarter of 2013 for a 747-8 or -9 VIP aircraft. And the chance of an earlier “pop-up” delivery, one that occurs when another customer cancels an order, is remote. Hill said he hasn’t seen any pop-ups in the last two years. And he doesn’t expect Boeing to increase its production rate either, even though he’s sure he could sell a lot more VIP aircraft if he had the availability. “Our $3 billion in sales represents only two percent of production,” he said. Boeing’s airliner sales take up the rest.
Delivery of a 787 VIP obviously depends on Boeing’s ability to keep to the 787 certification schedule. At the earliest, one won’t be available until the third quarter of 2016, and by Boeing’s own admission, it has used up all the slack in the program’s schedule. Whereas the first flight was originally expected in August, supplier and other difficulties have now caused the company to extend this until as late as mid-December. The first airline delivery of a 787 is planned for May next year. The first 787 VIP ordered from BBJ is slated for delivery in March 2011, though one acquired by a customer from a leasing company is in line for delivery in May 2010.
Nevertheless, Hill said the 787 would be “the next, probably the greatest, VIP aircraft derived from an airliner.” He supported this claim with a list of advantages over current VIP bizliners: large use of composite material, which, among other advantages, permits higher humidity in the cabin; a maximum cabin altitude of 6,000 feet; a better air purification system; reduced maintenance requirements, including a twice-as-long interval between D checks; larger windows; extensive use of LED lighting; a robust IFE backbone; a gust-suppression system that anticipates turbulent air; and a range at Mach 0.85 that is second only to that of the 777-200ER.
BBJC Is in the Works
At last year’s NBAA Convention, Boeing announced it was considering another model dubbed the BBJC, with the C standing for “convertible.” Chuck Colburn, BBJ director of marketing, said, “We expect the go-ahead for the BBJC by the end of the year, but we have permission to discuss the concept.” The BBJC will be derived from the 737-700C cargo aircraft, which has a side cargo door and actually shares the 737-700 fuselage and the -800 wing and landing gear with the BBJ. The -700C is in service with several airlines. The -C will likely sport the BBJ’s winglets, additional fuel tanks and avionics, said Coburn. The jet will be targeted mainly at governments looking for an aircraft that can quickly be converted to various missions. The large cargo door will permit overnight conversions of palleted interiors that could serve executive, high-density, medevac and cargo roles.