Charter and completions specialist Comlux is highly invested in the new corporate aircraft version of Airbus’s smallest narrowbody, the ACJ TwoTwenty programme.
“It’s not quite a joint venture, but it’s full co-operation,” Comlux chief executive Richard Gaona tells FlightGlobal. ”On the one hand we are the exclusive partner for the first 15 cabins, and at the same time we are a customer – we bought some planes – and we are really developing the product jointly.”
Comlux is also a launch customer for the programme, which is based on the A220-100 airframe, with two aircraft orders. The first of these is scheduled to enter service in early 2023. The aircraft will enable up to 18 passengers to travel in comfort on long-range flights of more than 12.5 hours non-stop.
As noted, Comlux – with its ACJ approved completion centre in Indianapolis – has been selected as the exclusive outfitting partner for the first 15 cabins. “We are working on the design with Airbus and will be the ones developing the cabin from A to Z in terms of technical elements and certification,” Gaona reports.
He notes that it took 2-3 years to assess what the aircraft could become in the corporate jet market. “Then, together with Airbus, we defined the requirements in terms of range, flight altitude and so on. The difference between this and other ACJs is that this is a real private jet, whereas the others are more VIP airliners,” he declares. “While the natural competitor for Airbus is almost always Boeing, in this case, it’s not; it’s Gulfstream, Bombardier and Dassault aircraft.”
The ACJ TwoTwenty will be able to fly 5,650 nm (10,500 km), on city pairs such as Dubai–Tokyo or London–Los Angeles. “But it’s done in the spirit of a new business jet, not a new VIP airliner. That’s why, when it comes to the cabin, we have designed 80 different layout configurations. On the ACJ319/A320s you have a white page and are asked what you want,” Gaona explains.
“We have solutions over six zones in the aircraft. The forward of these is the kitchen and the last zone is the bathroom. In between, we have four different zones where the client can choose from a range of modules. We are offering three different colours for the interior, while Airbus has also co-operated with contemporary artist Cyril Kongo to offer a special edition cabin,” he continues. “But at the end, it’s still with the same modules.”
“We have equipped the aircraft with the most advanced technology on the market. In the cabin, we have a 2Ku-band system delivering internet at 250 Mbps, provided by Astronics Custom Control Concepts, which is faster than most of us are having at home. We have chromatic windows which can be dimmed,” Gaona remarks. “And the cabin enables clients to have options such as TVs at around 55 inches, a US king-size bed plus a ‘rain’ shower. For the same length of cabin, we have three times the cabin volume [vs the competitors mentioned earlier].”
Operationally, the space taken by the TwoTwenty on the ramp is the same as the Bombardier Global 7500. “Also, the takeoff distance is less with a TwoTwenty than with a Global 7500. That means we will be landing at Teterboro and Stans and London City where taking an ACJ319 is very challenging. That’s a very strong advantage,” Gaona asserts.
“We compete on maintenance with cost per hour less than the other business jets. This is because the aircraft was designed for more than 60,000 flight hours, but will operate under a low utilisation programme. We do the first C-check after six years, whereas others do it after two.”
Of the two TwoTwentys that Comlux has ordered, one will be sold, with the other becoming the ACJ TwoTwenty future demonstrator. Additionally, Airbus Corporate Jets already has further orders from undisclosed customers.
“We’re not an agent. We buy aircraft like a leasing company, with the same commitment to take the aircraft at delivery, no matter what. If we can sell an aircraft before delivery, it’s perfect. But if not, we will still take delivery. This is very important,” Gaona emphasises, adding that the company will receive the first aircraft in December this year.
On the topic of sales, he reports that some clients comment on the TwoTwenty being “a new model”, but he has his answer ready. “There are more than 200 A220s in airline service today, so performance data is real. I know exactly the fuel consumption, because Airbus has all the data about the aircraft in service.”