Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Boeing is discussing its 737-based Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) with operators of corporate-aircraft fractional-ownership programmes. The company says that it wants to enter the fractional-ownership market with an established operator, but to offer part-owners the same level of product support which it will provide for buyers of complete BBJs.

This suggests a partnership similar to that between Gulfstream Aerospace and Executive Jet International, which markets shares in the manufacturer's GIV-SP and GV long-range business jets through an extension of its NetJets fractional-ownership programme.

Boeing says that offering fractional ownership of the $34 million BBJ "-is the smart thing to do", but it does not want to start its own programme. The key to entering the shared-ownership market is "-finding the right partner", Boeing says, adding that it is talking to all of the established fractional-ownership companies. The manufacturer has so far sold 25 BBJs, with deliveries to begin in late 1998, and believes that it can sustain production of about two a month.

Boeing is looking at improving the performance of the 737 for the corporate mission. Speed could be increased by raising the maximum operating Mach number from 0.82 to 0.84. The aircraft has been flight-tested to M0.89.

Secondly, the maximum operating altitude could be increased from 41,000ft (12,500m) to 43,000ft, by certificating the aircraft for a higher cabin pressure-differential, Boeing says.

Alternatively, the cabin pressure-altitude at 41,000ft, now an airliner-standard 8,000ft, could be reduced to 6,000ft, the norm for business jets. The increased pressure differential would be possible because of the fewer pressurisation cycles which the 737 would accumulate in corporate use.

Source: Flight International