Abu Dhabi-based VVIP charter company Royal Jet will decide in April which aircraft type it has selected to replace its entire fleet of Boeing Business Jets – of which Royal Jet is the world’s largest operator.

The contenders for the seven aircraft order are Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier with the BBJ, ACJ319 and CSeries, respectively. "We will present our recommendations to [our] shareholders at the end of April, and the final announcement will be made ­during the second quarter," says Royal Jet chief executive Shane O’Hare.

The first of the new aircraft will join the fleet in early 2016, with the remainder scheduled to arrive by 2020, he adds.

Royal Jet is also replacing its two Gulfstream G300s with ­larger, longer range G450s.

Also, three nearly new Bombardier Learjet 60XRs are to replace two older midsize types currently in service.

"The Gulfstreams and Learjets will continue to provide regional VIP transportation and medical evacuation services," says O’Hare. Royal Jet began operations over a decade ago, and O’Hare says during that time the BBJs have undergone "soft" refurbishments every two years and major refits every five. "All the aircraft are in very good condition and they have only flown around 1,200h a year on average," he says. Royal Jet has yet to decide whether to trade in the aircraft as part of the acquisition process, or sell them on the open market. O’Hare says Royal Jet’s order would be a major deal for all three airframers. "It’s rare in the private jet business for OEMs to receive a large-scale order for an aircraft of this size. Understandably, this contract is being keenly contested," he says.

O’Hare admits the BBJ is well liked by Royal Jet’s customers and has served the company well, but he stresses the company has yet to finalise its decision. "They are all strong contenders," he says.

Winning the business from Boeing would be a major coup for Airbus or Bombardier. Indeed, the latter is yet to officially launch a business jet variant of its new CSeries narrowbody.

Source: FlightGlobal.com