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BAE ABJ UPDATE

March 2009

Category: Review of Jets for sale

Author: Mike Vines

Market Acceleration:

BAE sees steady sales of ABJs

BAE’s VIP/Executive Shuttle version of its 146/Avro RJ, known as the Avro Business Jet (ABJ), is still growing in popularity. Since its re-launch in 2006, 12 aircraft have been committed to corporate roles. BAE defines the ABJ brand as conversions of both the BAe 146s and the newer Avro RJs from airline configuration to corporate VIP, executive shuttle, or Governmental roles.

Doubtless the reasons for the aircraft’s enduring popularity, particularly in the Middle East, is the ABJ’s short take-off and landing performance, its voluminous cargo hold (479 cu.ft.), and its four engined, general operational ruggedness. It’s not surprising that these aircraft are used by Gulf Region Royals to fly to remote African regions on hunting trips, complete with their beloved Falcons which perch, first class, in the cabin.

According to one BAE insider, Middle Eastern customers have even been checking out the availability of horse carrying RJ freighters for these trips.

The most recent ABJ order is a repeat one from Abu Dhabi’s Amiri Flight for a late model RJ100 conversion to VIP use (for delivery in April) which joins an existing ABJ based on the shorter body RJ70. At the same time BAE agreed to buy back an existing RJ85 ABJ in executive charter configuration, as part of the RJ100 deal announced in January, which was operated under management by Royal Jet, and currently is configured as a 42-seat all-first-class four abreast executive charter interior.

Also in the region, the Bahrain Defence Force currently operates an RJ100 and two RJ85s, although it is believed that one RJ85 is being/has been transferred to the Bahrain Royal Flight.

MARKET ACCELERATION
At its recent press briefing held in London, UK, at Lords Cricket Ground, Stuart Doughty, vp sales and marketing BAE Systems Asset Management, said, “Over the past 12 months the pace of the ABJ market has accelerated, with seven aircraft placed into the market in various corporate/VIP configurations… around 22 to 25 ABJs are either in service or under conversion for this market.”

Another exciting milestone in the luxury cabin development of the ABJ was achieved last year when BAE Systems teamed with Design Q to develop a luxury interior for Bulgaria’s national carrier, Bulgaria Air. Its cabin has 26 seats through three sections; the forward compartment has two sets of four club seats and table arrangements, in the mid section are two club seats, a divan and very large plasma TV, and in the rear, 12 business class seats.

This RJ70 ABJ conversion was carried out by Inflite Engineering based at London- Stansted Airport. The aircraft will be operated on behalf of the airline’s parent company, the Varna-based diversified industrial group TIM.

Stewart Cordner, deputy vice president, Sales and Marketing for BAE Systems Regional Aircraft said, “When we announced our teaming arrangement with Design Q we knew that this premium design consultancy would bring a totally fresh approach to interior designs for the Avro Business Jet. The result is stunning, and shows convincingly that the combination of a pre-owned airliner, together with an innovative interior, results in a strong, cost-effective, contender for the larger business jet market, and at a fraction of the cost and timescale of new production line aircraft.”

The current cost of an ex-airline RJ100 is in the region of $5-10m says the company, and more will be coming onto the market over the next two to three years – the completions are, of course, extra.

Gary Doy, joint founder of Design Q, explained that in recent years there has been a shift in values and aspirations of the VIP aircraft owner. “In part this is due to younger and more design-aware customers entering the marketplace who are looking for both a more contemporary and high-quality interior solution, with a trend towards more open plan layouts and modern surface finishes.”

Another interesting ABJ development from last year was the order of an ABJ from Greece-based Casino Rodos which will use its 40 seat VIP shuttle to fly high rollers into its Casino. It is currently under conversion at Inflite Engineering.

Transwede has bought an RJ70 with the intention of converting it into executive charter configuration, but plans appear to have stalled and it may have been pressed into regular airline service.

BAE Systems Regional Aircraft Asset Management team also announced it is expanding to take advantage of the current world financial situation, with the aim of winning third-party commercial aircraft remarketing and lease advisory work. In the past it only sold and leased BAEs out of production, BAe 146, Avro RJ series, turboprop Jetstreams and ATP regional transports. But over the last few years it has become a major player in placing other types of used airliners back into airline operation, with a current portfolio including around 50 aircraft - including MD-83s, Airbus A320s, and Boeing 737s on top of its BAE produced aircraft.

More information from www.baesystems.com

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