Airbus VIP jets backlog defies economic gravity
Airbus’s VIP division continues to benefit from an industry segment that if not immune to the current economic recession and credit crisis, appears at the very least to be relatively unaffected.
According to vice president of executive and business aviation François Chazelle, the European airframer has a healthy backlog of some 40 aircraft, a number that was considerably bolstered by orders in 2008 for a mix of 25 narrow- and widebody executive/VIP jets valued at about $3.4 billion.
While the total number of 2008 orders is less by 11 aircraft than in 2007–the best year ever for Airbus Corporate Jetliners–the total value of sales in 2008 was almost the same at $3.6 billion, thanks to orders for ten widebodies, the most ever in a single year.
As of today, the French OEM has sold 150 Airbus Corporate Jetliners, which includes more than 100 narrowbodies and 50 executive/VIP and government widebodies. The best market continues to be the Middle East, though Chazelle noted that European interest in narrow- and widebody airplanes has been higher than usual.
Among the 10 widebody orders last year, eight were for executive/VIP variants of the new A350 and two were for the larger, four-engine A340-500. Chazelle said the A350 remains on schedule for certification and entry into service in 2013.
Airbus Corporate Jetliners is on track to deliver 12 corporate jets this year, two more than in 2008.
Here at EBACE, Airbus Corporate Jetliners is represented on the static display line by an executive/VIP ACJ version of the A319 delivered to European charter and aircraft management specialist Comlux. The 19-passenger airplane features an en-suite lavatory with shower, a lounge, a dining room and first-class as well as executive seating. Comlux already has an A318 Elite in service.
Chazelle also noted that the Airbus Corporate Jetliner has been certified by EASA for a new maximum takeoff weight of 168,650 pounds, 2,200 pounds more than the weight for which it was previously approved. The increase also comes with a performance improvement, bumping the range up from 5,830 to 6,000 nautical miles, or permitting an increased payload capacity over shorter routes.
The mtow increase was made possible by a new load-alleviation function, which is offered as an option on new-build aircraft–the first of which was recently delivered–and will soon be available for retrofit to existing aircraft via service bulletin.
Chazelle also pointed out that while the economic conditions are having a negative impact on business aviation, “With the current uncertainties of today, private jet travel is more necessary than ever,” he said.