Former Learjet president Brian Barents took centre stage at NBAA, announcing the long-awaited formation of Galaxy Aerospace, the company which will take over manufacturing, marketing and support of Israel Aircraft Industries' (IAI) Astra and Galaxy business jets.

Barents is the president of Galaxy, which he describes as a "financially strong" company. He says that he will have an equity stake in US-based Galaxy, which is a joint venture between IAI and the Pritzker family, which owns Hyatt Hotel chains.

Galaxy will take over the operations of IAI's Astra Jet marketing arm, and will establish a completion and service centre at a US location yet to be decided. Barents says that site-selection negotiations will begin immediately after the NBAA show.

Hyatt president Tom Priztker says that the investment group spent more than a year studying the Galaxy business-jet programme, and says: "We think we have a winner." He says that independent analysts have confirmed that the "super mid-size" business-jet market, into which the $14.6 million Galaxy has been pitched, is under-served. Pritzker declines to divulge the extent of the company's stake in Galaxy Aerospace.

Galaxy will be responsible for marketing the current Astra SPX and widebody Galaxy. The company plans to begin completing Astras in December 1997, and expects to receive the first green Galaxy in 1998. Barents says that Galaxy intends to have delivered 20 aircraft by the end of 1999. Plans call for delivery of 12-18 Astra SPXs and 18-24 Galaxys a year.

IAI says that assembly of four Galaxy flight-test aircraft has begun in Israel. The first flight is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 1997, leading to certification and delivery to the completion centre a year later.

Officials believe that the financial resources committed by the Pritzker group, coupled with the Israeli Government's recent recapitalisation of state-owned IAI, will make Galaxy a "formidable" competitor in the business-jet market.

Source: Flight International