NBAA: Comlux debuts polished slats at NBAA

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High-end corporate charter outfit Comlux is putting its own shine on the show with the NBAA debut of its Airbus A318 Elite with special polished leading edge slats.

It comes as the Swiss-based Airbus and Bombardier specialist ramps up its brand presence in the North American market.

The fuel-saving and aesthetic features are designed in Brazil as part of a joint venture with Belgian aerostructures specialist Sonaca, and fitted at Comlux's completion center in Indianapolis, Indiana, where a second Comlux jet - an A320 - is being modified.

Eventually, Comlux plans to equip all seven of its Airbus jets - including two on order - with the slats. It will also offer the modification, which received regulatory approval earlier this year and was unveiled at EBACE in Geneva in May, as a third-party service.

The Indianapolis centre - the former Indyjet - is now branded as Comlux Aviation Services and a major expansion is under way. A second completions hangar will open in mid-2011, taking capacity from two to three Airbus or Boeing aircraft a year to three or four. The center is Comlux's main presence in North America as it does not yet market its charter service there.

Richard Gaona, president of Comlux Group, is upbeat about prospects for both sides of the business, charter and completions.

The top end of the charter market - less affected during the downturn than smaller types - has been "really flying" in the past few months, he says. Hours of use on the are up by 30-40% year-on-year on the Comlux Airbus fleet, which comprises three A318s, two A319-based ACJs, eight Bombardier Globals and five Challengers.

"Things have improved a lot," says Gaona. "The Russian market and Middle East are much better, and China has started to take off."

On completions, he expects competitors to be working to capacity on Airbus and Boeing widebodies such as the A380 and 787 in the next few years, clearing the way for Comlux to focus on narrowbodies.

The addition of a further A320 and Global 5000 later this year will take Comlux's charter fleet to 20, with a further two Global XRS and one ACJ on order for delivery in 2011 and 2012. Comlux's first Boeing, a 767, currently being completed at Indianapolis, will also join the fleet next year.