EBACE: Completion houses line up Boeing programmes

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Swiss VIP charter services company and cabin completions specialist Comlux has sold its 40% stake in the Airbus Corporate Jet Centre back to the airframer as it prepares for a move into Boeing completions, a market on which Dubai-based Project Phoenix and French company JCB Aero also have designs.

Comlux's first BBJ - one based on the Boeing 767-200ER - is due to join its fleet "at the beginning of autumn 2010", according to company president Richard Gaona. Its Bombardier fleet is also growing.

In one of the precious few new deals confirmed at EBACE, it ordered another Global Express XRS. The new ultra-long-range jet will feature the Global Vision flightdeck and is scheduled for delivery in 2012. Comlux has already taken delivery of one Global Express XRS, which it displayed at the show. It will receive another "in three months", with a Challenger 605 and an Airbus A318 Elite set to arrive in the meantime.

Two aircraft - an Airbus A320 Prestige and a Bombardier Challenger 850 - are undergoing completions at Comlux's Indianapolis maintenance and completions centre. Since acquiring Bombardier completions specialist Indianapolis Jet Center in 2008, Comlux has added Airbus and Boeing widebody completions capability at the site. Its stake in the Airbus Corporate Jet Centre in Toulouse has been divested so that it can "be free" to pursue Boeing completions business.

Meanwhile, Project Phoenix's plans to launch new VIP conversion programme based on the Boeing 737-800 were confirmed at the show. Company president Mike Cappuccitti insists that the Phoenix LBJ - Large Business Jet - does not represent an attack on Boeing Business Jets market. "The people who want to pay $95 million for a new BBJ will continue to do so," he says. "But we see a market for people who want to pay around $50 million for a BBJ-type aircraft."

A business aircraft sales organisation that specialises in the renovation and conversion of used airliners to VIP configuration, Project Phoenix made its decision to pursue the LBJ after a six-month technical evaluation of suitable airliners and a dialogue with potential customers. It has issued a request for information to several completion facilities in Europe, Australasia and the USA.

Renderings of its proposed cabin design were presented to potential customers at the show. Several designs are being prepared including a 30-seat VIP version with private office and state room as well as a higher density corporate version. Customers will be able to choose the number of auxiliary tanks to be installed depending on their operational range and payload requirements.

"We will be aiming at a 15-month programme from identifying the airframe, taking it through our maintenance process and then through completion," Cappuccitti says.

The official launch of the Phoenix LBJ will be at the MEBA show in Dubai in December, by which time the company will have prepared the full data package including weights, performance and price.

The BBJ market is also being eyed, albeit from a different angle, by aircraft cabin interior parts supplier JCB Aero, which is expanding into cabin refurbishments. "As the used aircraft inventory starts to shift these new owners will look at changing the interior as a way of stamping their identity on the aircraft," says JCB vice-president commercial Philip Male. "There is also a growing fleet of 10-year-old Boeing Business Jets that will need to be refurbished."