Calling the BAe 146 and Avro RJ the "SUV" of the business jet market, BAE Systems says it is attracting increasing interest from existing and potential operators for use in remote airfield operations.

The Avro Business Jet (ABJ) is the brand name given by BAE to executive and VIP versions of the two types, of which 400 were produced between 1981 and 2004.

Already a single ABJ customer has used the aircraft fitted with the BAE Systems unpaved runway protection kit to operate regular flights into and out of a remote/unpaved African airfield.

But demand for this growing trend "is also coming from several other market segments", said BAE. "These include mining resource companies who need the aircraft to access ever more remote exploration sites and who need an aircraft to fly in mineworkers and equipment."

In Australia, Cobham Aviation Services - one of the largest providers of contracted "Fly-in; Fly-out" aircraft services to the mining resource industry - has plans to offer its customers access to gravel and unprepared airstrips in Australia using, initially, a BAe 146-100.

Another source of demand is remote tourism, said BAE, where travellers want to experience short trips to unspoilt destinations. These could be for airline charters or, more exclusively, for smaller numbers of passengers within a business jet interior.

The Avro Business Jet Explorer concept, created with leading UK design company Design Q and revealed at last year's EBACE show, is designed to appeal to this type of clientele.

"In addition to the operators already flying these types of services, we are in discussions with both private and airline clients who wish to use BAe 146/Avro RJs to operate from remote and unpaved airstrips," said BAE Systems Regional Aircraft technical sales executive Chris Sedgwick.

BAE has about 110 BAe 146s and Avro RJs in its leasing portfolio, most of which are on lease to airlines worldwide. With a steady flow of aircraft coming back off lease, the company is targeting five separate markets for placements - airliners, freighters, military, waterbombers and executive/VIP.

Source: Flight Daily News