Tens of thousands of NBAA members have arrived in Las Vegas expecting to see airplanes on display–plenty of them. And these days, no show is complete without at least one airliner manufacturer trying to coax a few large-cabin bizjet owners to move up.
Airbus is attempting to persuade a few customers in Vegas by parking an ACJ319 at the Henderson Executive Airport static display. This is, in fact, the first time an ACJ319 is being shown in the U.S. and represents a business aviation version of the venerable A319 airliner flying with 99 different carriers around the globe. The aircraft on display includes an interior designed by Alberto Pinto Co.
Airbus vice president executive and private aviation François Chazelle said the company has more than 170 jets in service with private companies. “One-hundred-ten are from the ACJ318/319/320 family and 60 are VIP versions of the A330/340/380 aircraft,” he said. The OEM delivered 15 business airplanes in 2010 worth $1.5 billion, he noted, adding, “In 2011, we are delivering about one aircraft per month.” Reflecting the changes to the business aircraft marketplace in the past five years, Chazelle said, “50 percent of these new aircraft are headed for the Middle East, 25 percent to China and the rest to Europe, Africa and the Americas.”
For an airplane with a voluminous 5,900-cu-ft cabin and the ability to fly 6,000 nm on a fill-up, the ACJ319 has a surprisingly tiny footprint, about that of a Bombardier Global 5000 or Gulfstream G550. However, the latter two business jets’ cabins are considerably smaller than that of the Airbus, at 2,022 and 1,669 cu ft, respectively. Those differences tend to make people sit up and take notice rather quickly, especially when they hear the price of an Airbus typically includes the cost of the cabin.
Chazelle said that Airbus customers tell him how arduous they find the process of outfitting a large-aircraft cabin. “It is quite complicated and risky. That’s why we sell the cabin either through our Airbus corporate jet centers or through any of nine approved outfitters. It’s not something we push at all, but we have delivered about 60 percent of the aircraft cabins [on aircraft we’ve sold]. It’s what customers want,” he said.
If ordered today, a new ACJ318/319/320 could be delivered by early 2013. “We have some reserve positions for the ACJ fleet coming down the [production] line,” Chazelle noted. Customers can choose an airliner to modify into an ACJ as little as 12 months before the delivery date, but an airliner version of one of these aircraft couldn’t be delivered until the 2014 to 2015 time frame.
While the new engine option (NEO) was the talk of the Paris Air Show this year, Chazelle said that option “is a little too far out [timewise]” to plan for business buyers. But ACJ buyers can choose from two available powerplants: either a version of the CFM56 family or the International Aero V2500. Another option many do choose is the sharklets standing up from the wingtips. “These have a pretty good value and a nice visual effect,” according to Chazelle.
Few customers probably realize the importance of which way the cargo doors swing on a large aircraft like the ACJ, but the direction adds value, according to Airbus. On the ACJ family, cargo doors swing out, while on the Boeings they swing inward. The difference translates into the ability to easily add or remove extra fuel tanks to the Airbus depending upon whether the mission calls for additional range or the ability to add more passengers and cargo. Chazelle said the tanks can be changed by local maintenance technicians overnight. An ACJ319 can typically operate with as many as three additional fuel tanks.
List price for an ACJ318 is $65 million, an ACJ319 $80 million and for the ACJ320 $85 million. Prices of aircraft in the A330/340/380 category are quoted on an individual basis.