NBAA Convention News

Collins teams with Airbus in ACJ deal

 - June 30, 2008, 6:34 AM

Airbus has appointed Rockwell Collins as the avionics supplier of reference for its Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ). Under the deal announced here yesterday, all ACJs will be delivered with Collins communications, navigation and surveillance equipment–unless otherwise specified by the customer.

By year-end, the companies intend to offer inflight Internet service at a 56 kilobits-per-second connection rate. The existing Collins avionics suite for the ACJ consists of ADF, DME, HF, MMRs, a mode S transponder, RA, TCAS II, VHF, VOR and weather radar, as well as Aero-I satellite communications and AOC software datalinks. The supplier will support the equipment through its worldwide product support network.

Airbus has brought an ACJ owned by French executive charter firm Aero Services here to the NBAA show. According to Airbus senior director of programs Capt. Jacques Drappier, the aircraft flew nonstop from the airframer’s Toulouse, France headquarters– completing the 4,200-nm trip in 9 hr 24 min. It took off with 17 passengers, eight crew and plenty of baggage and hardware for this week’s exhibition at close to maximum takeoff weight of 166,500 lb. The aircraft landed with 8,818 lb of fuel remaining from the 52,910 lb it had begun the flight with. Full fuel capacity for the type is 66,138 lb. The ACJ had to land at Sanford Airport to complete customs and immigration clearance before making the seven-minute hop over to the NBAA static display line at Orlando Executive Airport.

Airbus now hopes to achieve 180-min ETOPS approval by January 2003. The Aero Services aircraft received 120-min ETOPS clearance last month. Since entering service back in July 2001, it has flown around 900 hr.

Richard Gaona, ACJ v-p, told a press conference yesterday that demand for all categories of business aircraft has softened since the September 11 terrorist attacks, but he insisted that medium- to long-term sales prospects remain good. “Corporations are struggling to buy business jets of any size but they will have to keep traveling,” he said. “The corporate shuttle application is still valid but we will have to provide the right financial solutions to make this possible.”

Airbus has 30 ACJ commitments, but Gaona said that some of these need to be reconfirmed. The sales target for 2002 is six aircraft; so far it has achieved three orders. Six to eight ACJs will be delivered this year. Other existing operators include UK-based executive charter firm Twinjet and DaimlerChrysler’s flight department, which uses its ACJ for transatlantic shuttle services between Stuttgart, Germany, and Pontiac, Mich., as well as to the automaker’s plant in Vitoria, Spain.

The manufacturer is in talks with several U.S. and European airlines that are interested in launching all-business-class scheduled service across the Atlantic (as Lufthansa is already doing with a 48-seat Boeing Business Jet). Gaona said that even in today’s depressed airline marketplace, carriers are still looking to pursue high-yield passengers with added-value services such as these.

Following the collapse of United Airlines’ Avolar fractional ownership program, Airbus is now looking for a new partner to get the ACJ into this market. Flight Options, which is now understood to be looking for an alternative to bankruptcy-protected Fairchild Dornier’s Envoy 7 corporate transport, is one possibility being considered. However, Gaona also maintained that the rival BBJ is struggling to make an impact on the fractional scene.

Airbus is also in negotiations to supply two new A340 aircraft for VIP applications. It is marketing this model and the A330-200 under the brand name World Ranger and believes that there is sufficient demand for three or four units per year. Gaona said that there are no  plans to develop a smaller ACJ based on the A318 airliner, rather than the A319 from which the existing model is derived.

The ACJ cabin mockup (Booth No. 3601) here this week demonstrates that it is substantially wider than the rival Bombardier Global Express, Gulfstream V and Dassault Falcon 900. It is even seven inches wider than the BBJ. The current green price for an ACJ is $39 million. A new VIP A340 costs approximately $140 million.

Airbus also confirmed here yesterday that the flight crew training agreement it signed last month with CAE will also cover the ACJ. Pilots will now be able to take initial and recurrent training at CAE’s Denver and Toronto facilities.