Early next year, Boeing will offer a kit for BBJs and BBJ2s that will provide a 6,500-ft cabin at FL 410 instead of the standard 8,000-ft cabin. Boeing officials here said that the lower cabin option is being offered because of customer demand to “improve the level” of comfort in the big business jet, but they also said the move was made to be more competitive. Other manufacturers “have used this [8,000 ft cabin] against us,” said BBJ president Lee Monson.
The kit, which can be installed on green BBJs as well as a retrofit for in-service business jets, is expected to be priced at under $100,000. Components of the kit include new cabin pressure controller boxes with revised software, a new cabin altitude indicator and two pressure-relief valves.
Installation of the kit can be made by certified mechanics, completion centers or Boeing. No structural changes will be necessary and no special maintenance will be required until the airplane surpasses 30,000 flights. (BBJs average 225 flights annually).
Improvements such as the lower-cabin-altitude kit provides more customer options, but it remains to be seen if they help sell more BBJs. Like many manufacturers, Boeing has seen its rates of BBJ sales and deliveries plummet. In the first half of this year, Boeing delivered four BBJs, half as many as it did in the first half of last year.
The company projects it will deliver four more in the second half, bringing the year’s total to eight. Last year, 16 BBJs were delivered and in 2000, 14 BBJs were shipped. Boeing said it has delivered 72 BBJs since the program was announced in 1996, and 52 are in service.
The delivery rate in the near future could be severely affected by the outcome of a labor dispute between Boeing and its members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM). In the latest action, Boeing rejected an IAM request for additional mediation, believing it had made its best offer. The union is scheduled to take another vote–as early as this week–to accept or reject the offer. A strike is a real possibility if the IAM rejects Boeing’s offer.