BAE Systems Regional Aircraft is hopeful of "further successes" with cost-conscious operators in the corporate aviation market in 2010, after completing three sales of Avro Business Jets in 2009.

The BAe 146/Avro RJ-based, four-engined ABJ has an airliner-sized cabin and "represents a good value proposition" in a beleaguered market, says Steve Doughty, vice-president of sales and marketing at BAE's regional aircraft unit.

"There are people out there whose wallet is more important than their ego," he adds, acknowledging the type's unglamorous image. "If they want a big aeroplane, this represents a very good, cost-effective way of getting an aeroplane that is suitable for most business jet missions."

Doughty admits that the ABJ does not have the range for transatlantic flights, but argues that many of the larger business jets, on which operators "can quite happily spend $16 million", are confined to 1-2h sectors, rather than flying long haul.

BAE has previously placed the price of a pre-conversion BAe 146-300 at around $2 million, and that of a pre-conversion RJ85 at between $5.75 million and $6.25 million.

In 2009, BAE Systems sold an RJ100 to Abu Dhabi's Amiri Flight/Royal Jet, for conversion to VVIP format; a BAe 146 to UK-based Gill Airways, for deployment as a 46-seat executive shuttle; and a BAe 146-100 to another UK company, Inflite Engineering Services, which was seeking to fit an aircraft with a VIP interior.

These transactions came as BAE increased its marketing spend in the business segment, promoting the ABJ at last year's EBACE exhibition and Dubai air show.

While the passenger market remains the primary focus, business aviation deals can make "a very significant contribution" to the bottom line, says Doughty. "We think there is scope out there, even in a difficult market, for us to get some more," he says.

There are more than 20 BAe 146/RJs in operation as VIP and corporate shuttle aircraft, BAE estimates. The RJ70 is seen by the company as "ideally suited" for ABJ conversion.

Source: Flight International