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LHT has designs on VIP A380 as Airbus weighs up demand

Supplier interest in a corporate-configured Airbus A380 is increasing as potential customers evaluate a VIP version of the ultra-large aircraft.

There are more than 20 Boeing 747s - including six -400s - operating in the VIP role. Airbus does not formally offer a Corporate Jetliner (CJ) version of the A380 as with the A319, but sees opportunities for the double-deck airliner in the sector. "We are serious about A380s being used in this part of the market. There certainly is a market," it says.

Lufthansa Technik (LHT), which has a major VIP aircraft modification business, has begun work on a plan to offer a conversion for the A380. "We are convinced that there will be a requirement for an 'A380CJ', and have been playing around with some basic ideas for interior concepts," says LHT chairman August Wilhelm Henningsen. "We want to be in a position to offer the service from day one," he adds.

Waco, Texas-based L3 Communications, Integrated Systems is another possible contender for a private A380 conversion, having established itself during the 1990s as a specialist in head-of-state/VIP aircraft integration, interiors and modernisation work. The company has undertaken conversion work on two "JVIP" 747-400s for the Japanese government in 1991 and 1994, and between 1991 and 1998 delivered seven modified aircraft to Brunei, including three Airbus A340s. It has also completed a VIP 747SP, delivered in December 1996, as well as a head-of-state Airbus A310 and two VIP Boeing MD-11s delivered to the Middle East in 1998. It is completing work on a private Boeing 777-200.

The company says it has "two proposals in, and should know in two to three months" if it has been successful. It declines to identify the proposals, but one at least is believed to be for a head-of-state 747-400.

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