Airbus Cracks U.S. VVIP Charter Market
After years of trying, Airbus (Booth No. C11606) has cracked the U.S. VVIP charter market with the first sale of an ACJ318 here, which Airbus believes will significantly increase the visibility of Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) in the U.S. The aircraft will be based at Jet Aviation Flight Services in Van Nuys, Calif., one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world, where it will be operated for an undisclosed owner and for Part 135 charter.
Don Haloburdo, Jet Aviation Flight Services vice president and general manager, said that his company would operate the aircraft and place it on its operating certificate for charter late this year or early next year. Jet Aviation will offer the aircraft to the charter market for $15,000 per hour and expects to charter the aircraft for 250 to 300 hours per year. Haloburdo said Jet Aviation would provide the crew and maintenance on the aircraft, the latter with the assistance of unspecified partners. The aircraft is being completed by Bizjet in Tulsa, Okla.
Airbus also recently delivered its first corporate jet with new wingtip Sharklets, an ACJ319 delivered to a private customer October 18. The Sharklets deliver 4 percent improved fuel economy, boosting the aircraft’s maximum range by 200 nm to approximately 6,200 nm. Airbus has been provisioning its new production aircraft for Sharklet retrofit for “some time,” said David Velupillai, ACJ marketing director. Velupillai said installation on provisioned aircraft would take only a few days and that the modification brings customers “immediate savings that will quickly pay for itself. Most capable maintenance outfits can do it. It’s a huge deal on the airline side, the savings [in fuel burn] is huge. We’re just starting to go down the road on the corporate jet side.”
The sharklets will be standard equipment on single-aisle new engine option (Neo) aircraft and will combine with the engines to offer improved fuel economy of 15 percent. Velupillai said Airbus already had more than 2,600 orders for Neo aircraft.
The Airbus Runway Overrun Prevention System (ROPS) is another new option being offered to ACJ customers for the first time. ROPS uses runway databases mated to onboard GPS to alert pilots of potential runway overrun situations. It will not automatically abort a landing, but it will issue display and aural warnings and automatically applies maximum braking and calls for thrust reverse as needed should crews overshoot the recommended touchdown point. Velupillai said the system pays for itself quickly in reduced insurance premiums. “The biggest cause of accidents today is runway overruns,” he said.
A new iPad-based electronic flight bag called “FlySmart” is also now available for ACJ customers to provide more precise aircraft operating data under various conditions.
Over the summer Airbus Corporate Jet Centre (ACJC) delivered a VVIP ACJ319 to Emirates Executive, the charter division of Emirates Airlines, equipped with ten individual sleeping compartments called mini-suites, the first business jet to be so equipped. Each mini-suite has its own door for passenger privacy and flat-bed seats. The Emirates ACJ was also equipped with “Starlight” ceiling and carpet lighting that uses embedded fiber-optic lighting. It is also the first ACJ equipped with a Ku-band antenna.
ACJC will deliver its 25th cabin completion in the next few weeks. The subsidiary specializes in single-aisle Airbus aircraft and recently branched into full MRO work including engine overhauls. Here at the NBAA static display, Airbus is exhibiting a VVIP ACJ319 operated by Comlux that is configured for 19 passengers.
ACJ customers also are now served by the new Airbus C4you (corporate jet customer care center) program that provides technical assistance 24/7. “Not all ACJ operators have a huge maintenance department and they need a little extra help from time to time,” Velupillai said. “It’s a technical advice team tailored to the need of corporate jet customers that we started in May this year. They are answering 200 queries a month. The C4you is part of Airbus’s overall product support center.” Airbus also has formed a new ACJ advisory board that meets quarterly to address customer concerns.