Boeing Business Jets is hoping to build on the momentum of last year when the unit sold a record 13 aircraft, including four widebodies, and delivered eight. “Last year was a very good year for BBJ,” said David Longridge, speaking at ABACE for the first time as president of BBJ.
Longridge late last year succeeded Steve Taylor at the helm of BBJ. A 21-year Boeing veteran, he returned to the unit that he first joined during its infancy in 1996 and served as a sales director for nearly two years.
But after concentrating on the airline market for a number of years, Longridge is happy to jump back into the business jet arena. “It is one of the most fascinating corners of the aviation world,” he said.
BBJ has changed substantially during his absence, he noted, going from a two-product entity when he left (the BBJ and BBJ 2) to offering 11 products representing the spectrum of the Boeing commercial product line.
He pointed to the “frustration I had before when people would want to buy widebodies and I couldn’t help them.”
In business aviation, people have very specific needs, and the product line must support that, Longridge said.
He credited the varied product line with helping with the uptick in sales last year. The launch of the “Max” helped, he said, as well as the interest in the 787 and 777.
This push to fill the varied needs is also helping drive its market survey for interest in a BBJ Combi. The company announced during ABACE this week that it would study the potential for such a product that would be based on the BBJ C or cargo variant with a cargo door.
Longridge said such a product could reach market within a couple of years – if the interest is there. But the company is going to hold off on a push toward development until it gets a launch customer.
The Combi would cater towards a government or business operation that might operate heavy machinery that needs to be transported along with a support team. He cited mining and oil and gas industries as possibilities. Longridge added that many customers who have looked at the cargo variant of the BBJ have asked about the potential of a combi configuration.
Longridge does not expect a large customer base for such a configuration, but does think it would serve the needs of some customers.
While offering varied configurations, Longridge notes that the customer must dictate the interior. While competitor Airbus is offering certain configuration designs, Longridge doubted that Boeing would duplicate that effort. “I firmly believe when you are ready to spend that much money on an airplane, you should be able to impinging an interior rather than be fed one.” He adds he can understand the approach of offering configuration designs, but said that Boeing plans to take a different approach.
Longridge is pleased by the balance of sales. While interest has been strong in widebodies, the BBJ is “what butters our bread,” he said. Of the 228 VIP aircraft sold, the BBJ accounts for 164. Boeing has been steadily building up completion capacity to accommodate both the wide and narrowbodies. The company has a network of 18 authorized completion centers capable of accommodating the BBJ and 10 that can handle widebodies.
A number of them have work under way. Boeing expects to that four 747s will come out the pipeline this year and one-two 787s. “This is going to be a great year for big aircraft,” this year.
He also has been encouraged that the sales have remained strong this year. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he said.