Airbus maintains that no decision has been taken over the launch of a re-engined version of the ACJ320 family, despite slots being reserved for the corporate jet line once production of Neo airliners begins in the next few years.
Although the A320neo is scheduled to make its entry into service in 2015, early production slots for the narrowbody appeared to be largely sold out. Nonetheless, capacity has been reserved for corporate jet customers "which could be Neo positions", says David Velupillai, Airbus Corporate Jets marketing director.
However, he insists the programme is still not officially launched. "The ACJneo is still beyond the planning horizon of most of our customers, that's why we are not talking much about the Neo at this point."
Corporate jet customers typically want to receive their aircraft within a year of placing their order, he says. Therefore, they are unlikely to be considering the Neo at this early stage.
Boeing has indicated that its re-engined corporate airliner, the BBJ Max, will be available from 2018. "I think we will be able to do better than that, but I'm unable to give a definitive date for the first one," says Velupillai.
Although Airbus has chosen not to offer the A318, the smallest variant in its A320 family, in the Neo guise, Velupillai claims this may yet change.
"It is not being offered as a Neo yet, but we have not completely ruled out that possibility," he says.
Production of the A318 has been completely sustained by the corporate jet division in recent years, but the backlog for the type is now exhausted. But Velupillai dismisses the suggestion that it is now, effectively, an out-of-production aircraft.
"We will be influenced by the market but we see a continuing need for the aircraft and we expect to book, build and deliver the A318. We anticipate getting more ACJ318 orders," he says.
Airbus has also confirmed that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi Arabian royal who had previously ordered a VIP-configured A380, is no longer a customer for the aircraft, with ownership passing to another client.
However, the airframer declined to give further details of the former flight-test aircraft's new owner.
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