It’s among the most fanciful VIP interior concepts ever proposed by a major completion center, given that it’s designed for a platform that doesn’t exist. But that’s not stopping Lufthansa Technik (LHT; Booth C8730) from showcasing at NBAA its SkyRetreat VIP interior for the A220 (née Bombardier C Series), which Airbus (Booth N5216) makes available only for commercial operators, not for the executive market through Airbus Corporate Jets.
LHT feels the concept—announced at EBACE in May, with the full design unveiled at the Monaco Yacht Show in September—has large appeal in the executive transport space. As for Airbus’s intentions regarding an executive variant of the A220, “I can only state that I know they are interested,” said LHT senior head of sales, VIP and special-mission aircraft, Wieland Timm shortly before the Las Vegas gathering. “I hope there may be an answer at NBAA.”
Given the limited aviation audience at the annual Monaco show, Timm considers Las Vegas “the first time we’re showing” the full concept to the business aviation community. LHT is presenting a non-scale section of the cabin to illustrate the interior’s look and feel, along with renderings, floor plans, and materials. “You can feel and touch everything–only at NBAA,” said Timm.
Passengers will enter through a forward observation area, among SkyRetreat’s most noteworthy features, as it includes the cockpit, extending more than six feet behind where the cockpit door would typically be positioned. Accessible in all phases of operations, the area includes a divan, and passengers can don headsets and monitor the cockpit communications en route. The aircraft meets regulations governing passenger access to the cockpit in non-commercial aircraft, Timm said. The main cabin, aft of the observation area, suggests a yacht rather than a VIP aircraft interior, with deck-like flooring and furnishings to match.
The A220’s range of some 3,800 nm—more limited than that of an ACJ and BBJ—gives the aircraft a mission profile well suited to such an interior. “Most customers are not flying longer than three, four, or five hours; nobody needs a sleeping room or a shower,” Timm said. “If they’re tired, they can rest in the divan or a seat.”
Similar in length to an A319, the A220 has a diameter of 10.75 feet, about 1.5 feet narrower than its larger sibling, but the open interior gives the cabin a more expansive feel. The aft section includes a seating area around what appears to be simply a table but is actually a multifunction, movable surface that can serve as a touchscreen monitor or television in addition to hosting a dinner party.
From an economics perspective, the simplicity and the reduced size makes SkyRetreat (or almost any other custom interior) less costly than typical executive airliner completions, while the platform itself provides “significant” operational and cost and maintenance advantages,” said Timm. (In addition to completion services, the Hamburg, Germany based MRO provides authorized maintenance and component services for the A220 fleet and its Pratt & Whitney PW1500 geared turbofan engines.)
Potential customers include those who operate “very old ACJs and BBJs, or who have ideas about what they could do with a little less space” than those platforms offer, and large-cabin business jet operators looking for additional room, without the exec-liner costs.
Pricewise, Timm said, “We have an idea what the cabin costs, but no idea what the aircraft costs.” An executive variant would require changing interfaces between the airframe and the cabin, such as ventilation, and those costs—and whether done as an ACJ offering, or provided through the aftermarket—would influence the price, as well. (A basic A220-100 retails for about $81 million.)
Asked about the possibility of introducing an ACJ220 at NBAA or any other time, an Airbus spokesperson said, “Today we are focused on the ACJ319neo and ACJ320neo, deliveries of which only began this year.”
Timm said prospective customers have shown “considerable interest” in the platform, and should the airframe become available, he expects most “will go for a more conventional cabin; it already provides an incredible amount of space for breathtaking VIP interiors,” he said. “But we wanted to show what is feasible and new, for the younger generation,” he said of SkyRetreat. “Its technical features will provide our customers with a whole new sense of space and a unique travel experience.”