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Business Aviation & The Boardroom - Business Liner Review 2011

Back at the dawn of the BusinessLiner era- the participants forecast long-term sales of 300 to 500 aircraft over a 20- year period. That was during a National Business Aviation Association Convention long ago at which commercialaircraft giant Boeing unveiled a partnership with engine-maker GE to offer a corporate aircraft - or the Boeing Business Jet- to be precise.

Dave Higdon   |   1st March 2011
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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BusinessLiner Review 2011:
Numbers show expansion in appeal.

Back at the dawn of the BusinessLiner era- the participants forecast long-term sales of 300 to 500 aircraft over a 20- year period. That was during a National Business Aviation Association Convention long ago at which commercialaircraft giant Boeing unveiled a partnership with engine-maker GE to offer a corporate aircraft - or the Boeing Business Jet- to be precise.

The BBJ’s very existence- and the early sales created even more attention- and the following year Airbus officially announced its intention to offer the Airbus Corporate Jet. Each program tapped the respective manufacturer’s most popular and most approachable models. For Boeing- that was the 737- and for Airbus- the A320.

Orders came in- gradually increasing until a long line was forming. The total numbers delivered exceed 200 units between the two contenders - with Boeing holding a 60% to 40% market-share lead. Both manufacturers have more on order - for their original models and VIP versions of other models of their airliners.

Each stand-by to work with qualified buyers interested in a wide-body airliner as a private aircraft solution- adding a few more airframes a year to the output of each. The net result today is more choices from ‘the big two’- and for the past several years additional choices from the world’s two other commercial aircraft makers.

Bombardier and Embraer offer Business Aviation variants of their regional airline products. Unlike Airbus and Boeing- however- these manufacturers are rooted in general aviation- manufacturing some of Business Aviation’s leading corporate aircraft solutions.

But by steering clear of competing with their own purpose-built business jets- both enhance their market presence- while also providing additional options for business aircraft users – and adding sales prospects otherwise outside their product reach.

All four airliner manufacturers engaged in this business aircraft segment because customers continue to seek out an executivetravel solution without parallel in aviation- whether business- personal or governmental.

Starting even in aviation’s Golden Years- the occasional airliner was put to work in corporate aviation – but in those days “airliners” were only slightly larger or different from the utility airplanes of the day.

The uses of pioneering businesses demanded little more than the capabilities of those airplanes. But surplus World War II aircraft helped re-establish the idea of using large aircraft for business transportation- and everything from the Douglas DC-3- C-47 aircraft and up- had stints flying for corporations.

But the 1950s brought about the JetStar- the 1960s the Learjet- and in the 1970s aircraft like the early Falcons and Cessna’s gamechanging Citation 500 re-focused Business Aviation on solutions more suitable to the diverse needs of the users: something more budget-friendly than surplus military or commercial aircraft- and more approachable for businesses and individuals- alike.

Only a small segment of users who- by their choices- opted to utilize commercial aircraft as private jets continued to exist - Hugh Hefner and the late Malcolm Forbes among them. Until that NBAA Convention in the mid-1990s- airliner makers only flirted with business aircraft sales.

The focus the first dedicated BusinessLiner- announced in the 1990s- brought to understanding and catering to corporate aircraft uses and the success of that focus is illustrated in units sold- the players competing- as well as the products they offer – products we detail below.

The European planemaker’s original airliner derivative- the Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) is based on the A319 single-aisle airliner- and represented the first fly-by-wire aircraft to enter into Business Aviation.

The ACJ is the best-seller among the more than 100 Airbus Corporate Jets ordered - which presently includes two other family members: the A318 Elite and the larger A320 Prestige.

Among the reasons for the ACJ’s appeal is its range- global support network (more than 150 locations)- and a large pool of available pilots thanks to the worldwide use of the A320-family airliners. The same applies for the CFM56 powerplants it employs- which built their outstanding reputation through decades of use- and tens of millions of successful flights on Airbus and Boeing airliners. Equipment for the modern digital cockpit includes an available Heads-Up Display system to improve the pilot’s ease of making approaches under limited-visibility conditions.

Many of the same benefits noted for the ACJ apply to the business variant of the Airbus A330 wide-body twin-aisle aircraft: service- support and mature power – except in this case- engine choice goes to the buyer: the GE CF6-80E1- the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 or the Rolls-Royce Trent 700.

The A330 Prestige also ups the ante in terms of range- and can cover 8-500 nautical miles between stops.

A340-300/A340-500 PRESTIGE
Take the benefits of the A330 line- add space and up the redundancy bar with four CFM International CFM56-5C4/P powerplants- and you have the BusinessLiner version of the A340.

The A340 Prestige can carry its maximum cabin load of 75 in an expansive suite-like space on legs surpassed by few purpose-built business aircraft. The A340-300 flies up to 8-500 nautical miles- but the A340-500 version- powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 500 fans- delivers a huge 10-000 nautical mile range.

Accommodating up to 100-passengers-inluxury space becomes possible in the A340- 600 Prestige. Aside from more cabin and luggage space- however- the A340-600 Prestige still retains outstanding range potential at an upper limit of 8-500 nautical miles.

There’s nothing available that offers the mobile space of this ‘mansion-on-wings’- Airbus’ massive double-decker A380 Prestige. No bigger passenger aircraft is flying – at least nothing available as a BusinessLiner directly from the planemaker. Spread between its two full-length decks is nearly 6-000 square feet of floor space - room available for whatever your budget and imagination can conspire to create (whether a fitness center- dorms- screening room- conference room- an intimate auditorium- or more-standard office suite components).

Crew training will be available for operating to those airports capable of providing access to the 1.1-million-pound behemoth – and there are precious few fields able to handle an A380 Prestige relative to the population of runways accessible by other jets. But you will get to spread out your airport-hopping with the A380 Prestige’s still-air range – a stunning 9-500 nautical miles.

A range of that length puts nearly half the planet within non-stop reach of the Airbus A380 Prestige.

More information from www.airbus.com

The BBJ aircraft have not only succeeded- but thrived. About 130 deliveries have been made since the original BBJ was introduced- and more are on order. That is better than expected when it was first announced by Boeing in the 1990s.

In fact- the BBJ and its variants have been so in demand that used BBJs continue to command prices as high as- or higher than a new one. The BBJ demand has remained so strong because the backlog continues to run three to five years out.

The Boeing 737-700 on which the original BBJ is based comes from the line of all-time best-selling airliners – but with the specialization needed for use in the high-flying- long-distance travel world of business and government executives – and individuals. With cabins of 79.4 feet and 98.6 feet long respectively- the BBJ and BBJ2 can cover just over 6-000 and 5-600 nautical miles.

Boeing also offers the BBJ3- with an even longer cabin (107.2 feet) and range of just under 5-500 nautical miles- while its BBJ4 Convertible offers the same cabin dimension as the BBJ3- but range just under 6-000 nautical miles.

With the BBJ as the world’s best-selling airliner comes the largest pool of qualified pilots of any jet available to the Business Aviation community. Only Cessna’s best-selling piston-single- the 172 Skyhawk could boast of possibly having more qualified pilots. In addition- the 737’s popularity among airlines also translates to near instant access to a huge population of qualified shops and technicians.

747-8 VIP
This double-decker airline offers the corporate community a huge amount of space- a high cruise speed and great range to match. Figure on about 9-400-plus nautical miles for the extreme range of the 747-8 VIP. The 747- 8’s high cruise speed of Mach 0.86 means you’ll cover those maximum-range legs in as short a time currently available.

With about 5-700 square feet of space available on the two decks- the 747-8 VIP misses the A380 mark by only a small percentage. Even though the 747-8 is still in development- buyers are already queuing.

787 VIP
Boeing held orders for several VIP variants of Boeing’s breakthrough new Dreamliner a couple of years ago- and that order book likely increased in size- given how large business jets and BusinessLiners have continued to fare well in today’s market.

The breakthrough technology for the 787 is its composite airframe - the first and largest all-composite airliner yet.

Boeing offers the business-version of the Dreamliner in two variations: The 787-8 VIP provides the operator with a single-level floor plan exceeding 2-400 square feet in a model capable of legs as long as 10-165 nautical miles.

The larger 787-9 VIP ups the floor space to nearly 2-800 square feet with a stretch that adds a bit more than 350 square feet when compared to the -8 version. Range is around the 9-650 nautical mile-mark.

Boeing’s big ‘Triple Seven’ will reach age 20 in a couple more years and its record is quite nearly perfect - its operating record even better- making the big twin among the mostpopular twin-aisle jets yet.

Boeing has been working here with customers interested in the 787- but with moreimmediate needs.

More information from www.boeing.com/bbj

Not all corporate flight calls for an airborne executive suite or flying board room. Bombardier Aerospace offers its significantly smaller (by comparison) Challenger 850 - a business jet version of its CRJ200 regional jet model - to the market.

The Challenger 850 can come either in Corporate Shuttle configuration (high-density seating- range of 2-100 nautical miles and speeds of around Mach 0.74)- or with an expansive cabin (range of 2-811 nautical miles (8pax))- making it suitable for CEO-level transportation or executive shuttle-work.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com

Embraer’s Legacy 600 and Legacy Shuttle are both business-oriented variants of the EMB-135 regional jetliner- and share a cabin standing 6 feet tall- just over 6 feet wide and more than 49 feet long. They also share powerplants and five-screen Honeywell flight-deck systems - but that’s where the sharing ends.

The Shuttle can accommodate cabins fitted for 19 first-class seats- or with high-density seating for up to 37. At the operating weight of a full 37 seats- the Legacy Shuttle offers a maximum range of about 1-200 nautical miles.

The Legacy 600 offers a cabin configured for corporate operations- as well as a higher gross weight and 7-000 pounds additional fuel capacity. Consequently- the aircraft can cover 3-400 nautical miles.

A year ago Embraer won certification for its Lineage 1000. Derived from the 106-seat EMB-190 airliner the Lineage 1000 targets the high-end business-jet niche. Capable of carrying 19 passengers in a wide- spacious interior with plenty of luggage capacity- the Lineage 1000 can fly a maximum range of 4-500 nautical miles.

Embraer handles its own completion and offers interior layouts that can include five distinct privacy zones. Two lavatories are standard- with a third lavatory and a standup shower offered as available options. On the flight deck- the flight crew gets to work with a five-screen integrated Honeywell Primus Epic avionics system.

More information from www.embraerexecutivejets.com

With hundreds of completely airworthy airliners either grounded by economics- business consolidations or political constraints- converting an existing airliner offers a more budget-conscious approach to owning a BusinessLiner.

In addition to lower acquisition costs- this option’s advantages include shorter leadtimes for acquisition – more rapid delivery of the base airplane – and equal options for the equipment and furnishings of the completed aircraft. Beyond the cabin conversion to a BusinessLiner- upgrades in avionics and refurbishment of engines are available in many of these packages.

Downsides include starting with an airframe and engines that have already labored intensively in the environment of regional feeder networks. Also- finding capacity within the Maintenance- Repair and Overhaul (MRO) community that provides specialized interiors at times is a challenge. If the advantages outweigh the down-sides for you- you may find a real bargain.

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