The Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) is celebrating its 15th anniversary, but the 747-8 Intercontinental VIP, Boeing’s executive-configured jumbo jet, stole the show at the BBJ press conference at EBACE yesterday. Company president Steve Taylor provided attendees with a thumbnail history and current state of the BBJ program, and an update on the 747-8 and 787 VIP delivery schedules.
Thus far a total of 207 BBJs have been sold, Taylor said, adding, “I think the most significant thing is our backlog of 37 airplanes,” which represents $5.4 billion (U.S.) in orders.
The company has eight firm orders for the 747-8, which first flew in March of this year, and “about a dozen” orders for VIP versions of the 787-8 and 787-9. Deliveries of the VIP 747-8s will begin in the fourth quarter of this year, with VIP 787s deliveries commencing in 2013. Taylor also announced the GE Pusher Program, which will ensure customers of VIP 747-8s have brand-new GEnx-2B engines installed following the completion of their interiors.
Recapping the BBJ program, Taylor noted it served as “a crucible where we’re able to experiment beyond what the commercial [aircraft development] guys could,” citing as an example the winglets found on almost all 737s that were developed for the BBJ. The auxiliary fuel system finding its way aboard some commercial 737s was also developed for the BBJ, as was the enhanced-vision system (EVS) that has been purchased by some U.S. National Guard units for military variants of the 737. Moreover, the BBJ itself has led to the development of notable derivatives: the P8 Poseidon, set to replace the P3 Orion patrol aircraft; and the AEW&C, a high- intensity radar platform.
BBJ values took a hit in the aftermarket as did all aircraft in the downturn that began in 2008, but, “Over the last year and a half, the asking price has recovered,” Taylor said. “I think that does good things for us selling new airplanes, as well.”
Taylor sited Asia and singled out China as an area of “strong opportunity,” reporting that unlike other areas of the world, where customers move up from smaller to larger aircraft, “Chinese buyers are coming in and buying what they want–first-time buyers are coming into BBJs.” To bolster its marketing efforts in the region, the company recently hired Li Bing, who has significant experience in the commercial aviation market in China.
The company believes the interior design options set BBJs apart. “Each one is a reflection of the taste of that individual buyer,” Taylor said. Two pre-owned BBJs on display in the static area at EBACE “represent the extremes of what’s possible.” One of the BBJs on display is being offered for sale by Freestream Aircraft, and the other by TAG Aviation.
All Boeing’s VIP aircraft are delivered green, and with 747-8 Intercontinentals set to begin rolling off the assembly line, that has put pressure on completion facilities.
“We’re having to redesign our business model to support completion centers,” Taylor said. “That’s the focus of our work, preparing for delivery of those big airplanes.”
Completions of the twin-aisle models require about two years. To meet the demand, the company has expanded its completion center network, and now has 15 licensed facilities. Among the new additions is China’s TAECO, partly owned by Boeing, the first completion center in that country.
Deliveries of VIP 747-8s will begin in the fourth quarter of this year, and the last of the initial eight orders will be delivered by the end of 2013. The company is not disclosing identities of the customers, but Taylor said the orders are for heads of state, primarily in the Middle East. Deliveries of VIP- configured 787s will begin in 2013, and the last of the initial orders is slated for delivery in 2019.
List price for the 747-8 is $300 million in 2012 fourth- quarter U.S. dollars. The 787-8 is priced at $178 million in July 2010 U.S. dollars subject to escalation, and the 787-9 is $207 million with the same escalation.
The jumbo VIP jets notwithstanding, this is the BBJ’s birthday party, and the company will mark the occasion with a champagne celebration at the BBJ stand (7051) at 3 p.m. on May 17.