BAE Systems offers help to NJI, but not equity

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UK aerospace group BAE Systems has been heavily involved in helping to set up new Italian domestic airline National Jet Italia (NJI) and has provided it with some financial assistance, but insists it is not a shareholder in the start-up carrier.

Rome-based NJI will start operations next month using two British Aerospace BAe 146-300s formerly operated by Uni Air of Taiwan.

A BAE Systems spokesman explains: "BAE Systems acted on behalf of NJI in acquiring the 146 aircraft from Taiwan and arranging funding for purchasing and customising the aircraft. As part of the deal with NJI for the brokerage of goods and services, BAE Systems has provided a limited amount of debt to NJI."

However he stresses the company is not a shareholder in the company, countering assertions from both NJI itself and its franchise parent British Airways that the company had taken a 20% equity stake in NJI.

A spokesman for NJI says the airline is majority-owned by Netherlands-based investment company Magtibay Holdings.

While the project is unconnected with its Australian namesake National Jet Systems (NJS) - now owned by UK aerospace group Cobham's FR Aviation division - NJI is the brainchild of former NJS chief executive Warren Seymour, who is deputy chairman of the new Italian carrier.

Earlier this week British Airways revealed that the new domestic start-up would become its 11th franchisee when it begins operations from Rome Fiumicino airport next month.

The NJI spokesman says the carrier will commence four-times daily services from Rome to Palermo on 11 July and will add a second service to Catania by the end of the summer. Alitalia and Air Sicilia already operate services between the Italian capital and the two cities.

NJI will carry out its flights with two 94-seat British Aerospace BAe 146-300s.

A spokeswoman for British Airways confirms a report in ATI sister publication Flight International that Uni Air formerly operated NJI's two aircraft and that the 146s were refurbished and upgraded at BAE Systems maintenance arm Avrotec.

The Italian carrier is initially operating under the air operator's certificate (AOC) of British World Airways, which is providing "start-up assistance" to the carrier and will help NJI in ultimately receiving its own Italian AOC.