MEBAA is beginning with the familiar battle of the big business jets. Airbus yesterday announced its eighth commitment for an ACJ320neo, said that it was close to securing its first ACJ350 customer, and hinted at the imminent launch an ACJ version of its latest widebody, the A330neo.
It comes as rival Boeing talks up the potential in the region of both its BBJ 787 and its newly-launched BBJ Max 7, the first airliner-derived business jet capable of reaching the US east coast from the Gulf thanks to its range of 7,000nm (13,000km).
Although Airbus's ACJ319neo has a range of only 6,750nm, putting New York just out of reach of Dubai without a stop, Benoit Defforge, managing director of Airbus Corporate Jets, hints that the 250nm shortfall might be made up by the time the Max 7 enters service in 2022, three years behind the ACJ319neo. "We have that time for the product to improve. All products improve over time, and 250nm is not that far to reach," he says.
However, there was gloomier news from Airbus. The organisation is shutting its completion centre in Toulouse next year, with the facility switching to upgrading cabins for airlines. Referring to the decision as a "transformation", Defforge said Airbus had decided that it "didn't want to compete" with its approved independent outfitters.
After launching the corporate jet at EBACE in Geneva last year, Airbus has six ACJ320neos on order, and two ACJ319s. The first ACJ320neo will be delivered to launch customer Acropolis Aviation in the fourth quarter of 2018, with the airframer hoping to make the announcement at the next MEBAA show. The initial ACJ319 is due to follow in the first quarter of 2019. Other ACJ320 family customers include Comlux and K5 Aviation.
Defforge says Airbus is "very close to a firm commitment" for an ACJ350-900, "and a second one is under discussion". He adds: "We believe there is great potential for this platform in this region".
And although he refuses to elaborate on what he says is a "teaser", an ACJ330neo looks likely. "We will soon have a new platform between the narrowbodies and the ACJ350 to be launched next year," he says.