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Despite the tough period the industry is enduring, Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) has so far taken 13 orders and commitments in 2020 across all of its corporate jet types, and has delivered four ACJs to customers, “and the year is not yet finished,” ACJ president Benoit Defforge told reporters in a Dec. 2 press conference during the 2020 NBAA-VBACE conference.
He noted that business aviation has a “good resilience,” and there are a lot of newcomers to the segment who are discovering “how convenient business aviation” is.
“Thirteen orders this year… I think it’s consistent with the fact that corporate aviation is very important for Airbus,” said Defforge.
This year the company delivered the first ACJ350 to the German Air Force, and Airbus plans to deliver a second ACJ350 to Germany in the coming weeks. “It’s interesting to note this because it means that we have been slightly impacted by COVID [at] the beginning of the year, but now we are delivering these aircraft as planned.”
Airbus Corporate Jets’ strong orderbook this year is “one of the elements which made us confident in order to launch the ACJ TwoTwenty,” Defforge said.
The company officially announced the new ACJ TwoTwenty jet on Oct. 6, and simultaneously announced that the business jet had already received six orders following its launch. Two jets were ordered by Switzerland-based Comlux, which is also Airbus’s cabin-outfitting partner for the TwoTwenty, with another four jets ordered by undisclosed customers. Airbus said the first of the six aircraft ordered will enter service in 2023.
The concept for the TwoTwenty came from evaluating customer needs in the areas of space, range, and cost. “When we started analyzing it, we realized that unfortunately you can only have two out of the three,” explained Defforge. “We said, ‘How can we find a platform, how can we get to a product which would have no compromises?'”
The ACJ TwoTwenty has created an entirely new market segment, labeled by Airbus as “The Xtra Large Bizjet.” Stan Shparberg, ACJ vice-president, Commercial, said the TwoTwenty’s cabin is “at least two-and-a-half to three times larger” than one of the largest bizjets in the ultra-long-range segment. “We’re talking over 800 square feet of space,” he said.
The aircraft’s range is up to 5,650 nautical miles, which is more than 12 flight hours.
In order to hit “the right price level,” Airbus is offering a flexible cabin catalog to its customers with over 100 cabin configurations. “Let them have the absolute best option that you could have within the different VIP zones . . . on this aircraft,” said Shparberg.
He added that the ACJ TwoTwenty is a “purpose-built aircraft for private aviation.” When developing the TwoTwenty, Shparberg said the company looked at the operations of the aircraft to ensure it could operate at smaller airports with short runways. “It is quite important for those who are traveling in that segment to be able to get into the smaller airports. . . . So [the ACJ TwoTwenty] actually has shorter takeoff runway needs than a Gulfstream 650, for example,” he said.
Airbus believes the new market segment that the ACJ TwoTwenty has created will address the needs of the company’s North American clients. This is key, as the U.S. is “about half of the whole [business aviation] market,” said Shparberg.
“On top of that,” he added, “we are very much at home in the U.S. . . . We spend more than $17 billion in the U.S., we have a factory in the U.S., and the [ACJ TwoTwenty] is a North American-born product. So I’m quite optimistic. . . . I think especially in the U.S., we’re going to see quite a lot of interest and sales, I would expect.”
Looking ahead to 2021, the company is “cautiously ambitious.” While Defforge emphasized the word “uncertain,” he also said, “I anticipate a quite balanced year [in 2021] — an average year. 2020 was a record year, and we benefit from all [that] has been done the previous year.”