Airbus has opened the ACJ TwoTwenty creative studio at its headquarters in Toulouse, France. Adjacent to the fuselage mockups for every Airbus model in Toulouse, where airlines can select interior configurations and materials, the creative studio is designed to help buyers finalize the interior for their new ACJ TwoTwenty.
“We are extremely proud to open this unique creative studio for our customers,” said Airbus Corporate Jets president Benoit Defforge. “It is important to make them feel the space and ultimate comfort it is bringing, thanks to the latest technologies we offer our customers, a real-time and immersive design experience.”
The development of the creative studio stemmed from discussions among Airbus Corporate Jets team members and customers as well as Comlux Group, which is the exclusive completion center for the first 15 ACJ Two Twentys. These will be done at Comlux’s Indianapolis, Indiana, facility.
Because there are not yet any fully completed ACJ TwoTwenty demonstrators available, according to Chadi Saade, Airbus Corporate Jets vice president commercial, the company needed a way to help customers visualize the airplane’s expansive cabin and decide on how they want it outfitted. “This is extremely important,” he said. While the creative studio will always complement seeing the actual aircraft, he added, “This is a great first step while waiting for the [demonstrator] aircraft. This will be an efficient tool to finalize the design and selection of options.”
Airbus has taken a different approach with the interior design of the ACJ TwoTwenty. Where buyers of other ACJ models can customize their aircraft starting from a completely bare interior, TwoTwenty buyers begin by choosing a configuration for each of the six zones then selecting from hundreds of fabric, carpet, wood veneer, and plated metal finishing options.
The online configurator allows buyers to click on various furniture layouts for each zone, including the full kitchen (galley). During their visit to the creative studio, buyers can see what their layout looks like in a full-size projection of the cabin on the floor of the studio. After donning a virtual reality (VR) headset, the customer can not only walk through and view the layout in 3D but also see and compare the materials choices, integrated into the VR view, as well as lighting effects. To help get started, customers can select one of three optional cabin designs or a special Cyril Kongo edition.
“We predefine the options for the cabin,” said Sylvain Mariat, head of Airbus Corporate Jets creative design. “It was a huge discussion to make something easy for customization [of the cabin]. The creative studio is an extension of the concept of the A220, with a lot of high-end tools and the latest technology for the customer to choose their interior. It was very exciting in my life and work in Airbus to design this kind of specific project. The result is very magic. We can go very far in customization, and in the end make something unique, depending on the customer’s taste."
“Previously we had a fully customized cabin on the ACJ319 and ACJ320," said Saade. "The customer needed lots of support. Now the customer goes in the integrator and decides what it looks like. It’s way different than what we were previously doing and like what others are doing. But it doesn’t mean they can’t customize their interior. There are 200 different colors and fabrics they can choose from. That’s fine-tuning. The bulk of the customization is done [with the configurator] then the customer gets into the general ambiance with their own designer or with the help of Sylvain.”
With 786 sq ft of floor space, the ACJ TwoTwenty offers “double the space and volume of any competitor aircraft, according to Airbus, while the jet’s external footprint is just slightly larger than its ultra-long-range, large-cabin, purpose-built business jet competitors. The creative studio illustrates these differences, to show potential buyers how the larger ACJ TwoTwenty cabin compares to its ultra-long-range jet competitors. One of the key differences is because the ACJ’s engines are mounted on the wing, and thus the cabin extends further aft, with much less space needed for equipment. A typical business jet with tail-mounted engines requires a significant amount of space in the aft fuselage for engine-related hardware and components, but that isn’t the case for a jet with wing-mounted engines. In the ACJ TwoTwenty, this characteristic adds 25 feet to the cabin length.
Cabin width of the Airbus jet is 10 feet 8 inches and height is 6 feet 6 inches. Volume is 5,210 cu ft. Airbus compares the TwoTwenty’s cabin to the largest purpose-built business jets, the Dassault Falcon 10X, Bombardier Global 7500, and Gulfstream G700. The 10X’s cabin is 9 feet 1 inch wide and 6 feet 8 inches tall. The Global 7500’s cabin is 8 feet wide and 6 feet 2 inches tall. The G700 cabin is 8 feet two inches wide and 6 feet 3 inches tall.
The ACJ TwoTwenty can fly 5,650 nm or 12 hours carrying eight passengers and has a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet. Typical cruise speed is Mach 0.78 and maximum operating speed Mach 0.82. This is slower than the ultra-long-range jets, which offer long-range cruise speeds of about Mach 0.85 and high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90, with maximum altitudes of 51,000 feet.
Another feature in the creative studio is a mockup of a cabin section fitted with retractable size-comparison blade-like elements that illustrate the difference between the ACJ TwoTwenty and competitors’ cabins. With the blade elements retracted, the customer can see how movable demonstration chairs fit into the ACJ TwoTwenty cabin, then with the blades extended, compare that same seat layout and see how it fits in the smaller business jet cabin.
“It’s two to three times the size of other aircraft for the same acquisition price,” said Saade. “On top of that, it comes with 30 percent lower operating costs. The experience you can have onboard is unique, the space is unique. I really believe it’s going to be a game-changer.”
“This is an important market for us,” he said. The kind of customers who had a [traditional ultra-long-range jet] said, ‘If I can have the same thing for the same price at twice to three times the cabin size, with a proper bedroom and dining table, it’s a no-brainer.’ The experience you can have onboard is unique, the space is unique.”
“There is still room for the others [competing jets],” said Mariat, “but for once we can compete head-to-head [with them].”
Compared to large business jets, the ground footprint of the ACJ TwoTwenty is only slightly larger. Overall length is 114 feet 9 inches and wingspan 115 feet 1 inch. The Global 7500, by comparison, is 111 feet long and has a wingspan of 104 feet. Tail height may be an issue for ACJ buyers, however, as many business jet hangars are designed for sub-30-foot-high airplanes. The ACJ TwoTwenty’s tail height is 37 feet, 8 inches.
While the ACJ TwoTwenty burns more fuel, “it is cheaper to operate,” Saade said, because its maintenance costs are lower. There are so many A220s in airline operation that parts cost less and maintenance and training are widely available anywhere in the world at reasonable prices, according to Saade. The ACJ TwoTwenty’s two 24,000-pound-thrust Pratt & Whitney PW1500G engines are designed to rarely if ever be removed for maintenance. “[Operators] will probably never have to remove an engine,” he said, given the fewer number of flight hours that business aircraft typically fly. Also contributing to the lower operating costs is the ACJ TwoTwenty’s low-use maintenance program.
Airbus has already seen commitments for five ACJ TwoTwentys this year and 10 total orders since the jet was launched. “We didn’t see a slowdown [during the pandemic],” Saade said.