Commercial Program Delays Hit Twin-Aisle VIP Deliveries
Boeing Business Jets president Steve Taylor yesterday revealed at NBAA 2011 that the well-publicized delays of the company’s commercial 787 and 747-8I twin-aisle aircraft programs would affect deliveries of these models to VIP completion centers.
Delivery of the first 787 BBJ is now slipping to 2014 from 2012, and the first 747-8I VIP has seen 30 to 60 days of pressure added to its delivery schedule, though Boeing has not changed its guidance that the aircraft will deliver this year. Even though that 747-8I had been built months ago, it was awaiting the incorporation of minor changes based on program flight test, before aircraft certification and delivery. Taylor likened it to crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. “It’s not a big deal; it’s not big news,” he said.
He also confirmed that the bulk of the BBJ backlog is now in the new twin-aisle jets and that it was likely that the first single-aisle BBJ with the new CFM Leap-X engine would be based on the 737 MAX-8, an aircraft equivalent in size to the current BBJ-2. “The backlog includes as many twin-aisles as it does 737 variants,” he said.
Ordered VIP 787s currently stand at 12. Orders of 747-8I VIP have grown over the summer from eight to nine. Year-to-date, Boeing had taken orders for five BBJs–two BBJs, one BBJ-C, and one 747-8I VIP. Additionally, the company had delivered five aircraft: four BBJs and one BBJ-C. The bulk of BBJ customers continue to be governments and private individuals who together account for 87 percent of all BBJ sales.
Taylor also noted the growth of BBJ charter operators, particularly in Asia, with four different charter BBJ operators there: Beijing Airlines, Deerjet, Korean Airlines, and Metro Jet. Taylor also said Boeing was working more with Asian designers, including Air Jet Design of Shanghai. Boeing also recently licensed its first Asian completion center, Taeco.
The 787 delays mean that four of the 12 VIP aircraft on order will be delivered in 2014. Boeing originally hoped that a more staggered delivery schedule with allowances for “lessons learned” for those aircraft would help it avoid technical and schedule difficulties akin to those on the original green BBJ deliveries of 737-based jets in the late 1990s.
Taylor said that three of the first four 787 BBJ deliveries would be truly “green” or uncompleted aircraft but that the second will be delivered with an all-business-class-type, airline-style interior. He also repeatedly has cited Boeing’s improved data sharing and engineering support for completion centers as strategies likely to mitigate any future difficulties.
As the BBJ fleet gains in maturity (more than 90 of the 205 BBJs now have more than 10 years of service), Boeing Commercial Aviation Services is coming up with retrofits and modifications for them. Taylor specifically mentioned a new carbon brake retrofit that takes 700 pounds off the empty weight of a 737-based BBJ.
He said that the company plans to offer an enhanced vision system retrofit for these airplanes beginning in mid-2012. EVS currently is flying on three BBJs. Taylor also said the company had instituted a landing gear exchange program tailored specifically for BBJ operators. Boeing Business Jets is here at Booth No. 9210.