Despite Airbus upheaval, ACJ family is thriving

NBAA Convention News » 2006
November 8, 2006, 5:09 AM

Troubles in the executive suites at Airbus and in the now-delayed A380’s 300 miles of wiring have seized the headlines, but Richard Gaona, the company’s vice president, executive and private aviation, was upbeat while detailing sales of its corporate jetliners here at the NBAA Convention yesterday.

“Yes, we are facing difficulties,” Gaona said at a midday press conference. “But the future is not so bad. We will deliver more aircraft this year than anybody.”

Those sales include firm orders for 21 aircraft from corporate customers: 20 for the ACJ family and one for a VIP A330-200. The ACJ family comprises, in ascending order of size, the A318 Elite, ACJ (A319) and A320 Prestige. The orders total about $1 billion, Gaona said. The only sour note he sounded was about backlogs in installing the deluxe interiors. “We need slots for completion of the VIP cabins,” Gaona said.

The company currently has four corporate jetliners awaiting finishing touches at its completion center in Dallas. In an effort to overcome the backlog, Gaona also announced the company is naming Gore Design Completion of San Antonio as the second approved completion center for Airbus corporate jetliners in the U.S.

“We focus on design,” said Jerry Gore, president and CEO of Gore Design. “We’re the only completion center owned by a designer.”

Gaona attributes the success of the corporate jetliner sales program to several factors: the airplane’s technology– from fly-by-wire flight controls to the low-weight, high-strength carbon fiber used its construction–its fuel efficient engine and airframe design. The spacious cabins and upscale interior appointments are also popular with potential customers, Gaona said. And at 52 dB, the cabin is almost as quiet on the ground as it is in the air.

“‘We don’t feel like we’re flying’ is the best compliment we get from customers,” he said.

The ACJ family also offers a combination of features including Category 3B auto land, public transport certification for more than 20 fare-paying passengers, outward-opening cargo doors and a choice of engines and auxiliary power units.

Gaona also pointed to the company’s strong worldwide support for the aircraft. Airbus has 150 field service teams for the corporate jetliners, and a maintenance, repair and overhaul network of 15 centers around the world.  

Airbus sold its first corporate jetliner in December 1999. Sales have risen annually, to six in 2003, nine in 2004 and reaching 15 last year. So far a total of 80 ACJ aircraft have been sold, and Airbus reports the fleet has a dispatch reliability rate of 99.9 percent.

Gaona recalled the company’s initial announcement of its foray into corporate jetliner sales at an NBAA Convention at the end of the last decade. “If you remember, I said the market is 20 or 25 [Airbus] aircraft per year, on average. Some years, it might be 12 to 15 aircraft per year.”

Asked if the company would be satisfied with that latter range of sales, Gaona, with an eye on arch competitor the Boeing Business Jet, replied, “I’ll be happy with any number that is more than 50 percent of the market.”  

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