NBAA Convention News

Completion centers await new Boeing widebody projects

 - October 13, 2010, 6:49 AM

Head-of-state and VVIP completions centers are awaiting two new Boeing widebodies–the 747-8 and the all-composite 787. Both aircraft, which have suffered from well-publicized program delays, are currently in flight test and customer deliveries should begin next year.

The value of Boeing’s order book for widebody VIP aircraft is approaching $6 billion and eclipses that of single-aisle 737-based BBJs by almost three to one. The bigger completion centers are taking notice of the numbers.

Boeing’s latest iteration of its iconic quad-engine 747 jumbo jet is more efficient, quieter, longer, faster and flies farther than its progenitors. In VIP configuration it can carry 100 passengers 9,260 nm nonstop in a spacious 4,786-sq-ft cabin at a cruising speed of Mach 0.86, with a dash speed of Mach 0.92 or 614 mph. All these superlatives have a price tag to match: nearly $300 million (green) when deliveries ramp up next year. Add a state-of-the-art, head-of-state interior for a VIP 747-8 with opulent finishes, secure communications and anti-missile defense and countermeasures and the price easily creeps toward half a billion dollars.

Through the first half of this year, Boeing Business Jets (Booth No. 3304) had signed seven orders for the leviathan in VIP configuration and identified seven authorized completion centers to work on it: AMAC, BaySys Technologies, Greenpoint Technologies, Gore Design Completions, L-3, Lufthansa Technik and Jet Aviation. Two years ago Jet Aviation Basel built a 377,000-sq-ft hangar that can accommodate an Airbus A380 and a 747-8 simultaneously. Meanwhile, BaySys Technologies announced plans in June to establish a joint venture VIP completion center in Casablanca, Morocco, to service European, Gulf and Middle Eastern customers, including perspective 747-8 buyers. The first 747-8 is scheduled to go into completion late next year. The potential market for VIP 747-8s could approach 50.

More than 12 VIP 787s are on order and certainly more will follow. The initial order number could increase to 16 if certain lease orders are converted, according to a Boeing spokesman. The first 787 is expected to enter a completion center sometime in 2012.

The 787-8 VIP will be able to remain aloft for nearly 22 hours and fly unrefueled missions up to 9,590 nm with reserves and offers 2,400 sq ft of cabin space. A follow-on 787-9 VIP adds 300 sq ft of cabin space and 400 additional miles of range. Typical 787 VIP completion budgets are estimated at $40- to $70 million per aircraft, the higher end equivalent to the cost of an entire completed 737 BBJ in the 1990s.

For interior designers and completion centers, both new aircraft present unique challenges and opportunities.

The 747-8 interior has adjustable LED lighting. The staircase to the upper deck is bolder and more curvaceous, the overhead bins are more sculpted and the entry way is much larger, creating an impressive towering foyer. However, the most dramatic feature is the main cabin’s 13-foot-tall ceiling combined with the decision to move the electrical, hydraulics and HVAC piping into the sidewalls of the aft fuselage. This creates a second deck and 881 sq ft of additional usable floor space aft of the 747’s trademark hump that could be accessed via an additional staircase in the rear of the aircraft.

Designers are proposing using that space for private lounges and dining rooms, offices, enclosed sleeping berths, crew rest areas or secure communications suites. Greenpoint Technologies has designed modular SkyLofts for this space. The tall ceiling also gives designers the flexibility to fashion dramatic open lofts as well as vaulted and trayed ceilings. Greenpoint and L-3 also have designed custom elevators for the 747-8 that deploy to the tarmac when the aircraft is stopped on the ground and also can move between decks while the aircraft is airborne.

Although the first $153 million (2007 price, green) 787-8 VIP will not be delivered to a completion center until 2012, and most much later than that, as early as 2006 designers and completion centers began fashioning futuristic interior spec concepts that played on the aircraft’s spacious 2,400-sq-ft cabin, larger fuselage windows and open space. BMW DesignworksUSA created a whimsical design for a fictitious Russian billionaire complete with fitness center, band stand, an enormous media room, open staircase, bar and glass floor revealing a BMW automobile in the cargo hold. Some designers have submitted actual interior concepts to Boeing for review.

Boeing is reaching out to some designers directly with special data packages. “We don’t give the designers the same depth [of data] as the completion centers,” Boeing Business Jets president Steve Taylor said, but they do get an “outfitters data package” that contains “everything a designer needs to do an interior.”

The 787’s composite construction has caused some completion center trepidation, but Taylor said items such as pre-drilled frames and attach points on the 787 “that do not exist on an aluminum airplane” will make monument placement easier.