BAE Systems is preparing to offer a handful of modified RJ85s and 146-300 airliners to the business aviation community for the first time as demand for its four-engined Avro Business Jet (ABJ) family continues to grow.

The first of 13 RJ85s - approved for high-altitude operations up to 35,000ft (10,670m) and all equipped with long-range fuel tanks and modified airstairs - are scheduled to exit commercial service with Lufthansa City Line from March 2010.

Meanwhile, 12 large-cabin 146-300s will be emerging from fellow German regional carrier Eurowings' inventory over the next 18 months.

"Both aircraft types are ideal business aircraft and we are hoping to place around seven RJ85s and three 146-300s into this market," says BAE's ABJ vice-president Stewart Cordner

The RJ85s will be priced between $5.75 million and $6.25 million without a VIP interior and up to $14 million fully equipped. The 146-300s will be tagged at around $2 million without an interior.

Cordner says the ABJ continues to sell well and the company sees potential for several sales a year, thanks to low aircraft acquisition costs and the unusual design aspects of the 146/RJ - including the four engines and airliner-sized cabin.

"We have clinched four orders this year already and expected to reach six by the end of December," he adds. In early November the company announced the sale of an ABJ to UK construction company the Gill Group.

The 146-200 will be converted to a 46-seat executive shuttle configuration and is earmarked for service entry in the second quarter of 2010 as a corporate and charter aircraft.

Cordner says the ABJ has been particularly popular in the Middle East, where it is making its debut at the Dubai air show this week. "We are displaying an RJ70 belonging to Bulgaria Air," Cordner says. "We already have a number of ABJs in service across the region with the Dubai Air Wing, Presidential Flight of Abu Dhabi, the Bahrain Defence Force, and Kuwaiti First Trading and Construction."

A late-model RJ100 ABJ is also under conversion at Inflite Engineering Services in the UK and scheduled for delivery to the Presidential Flight of Abu Dhabi in December, where it will operate alongside the existing RJ70.

Source: Flight International