Airbus and Boeing stepped-up their "bizliner" battle at NBAA, with Airbus announcing the start of flight tests of the A318 Elite and Boeing Business Jets bolstering its stable with the 737-900ER-based BBJ 3, and VIP versions of the 787 and 747-8.
Flight tests of the newest member of the Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ) family kicked off at Hamburg, Germany on 10 October. The A318 Elite will be delivered next year to Swiss-based launch customer Comlux following completion in Hamburg.
Boeing, meanwhile, confirms sales of five VIP versions of the 787 (three -9s and two -8s), plus three 747-8I-based VIP aircraft. Boeing Business Jets, which manages VIP sales of the widebody models, expects sales of another 787-8 and 747-8 VIP by year-end, says president Steve Hill.
Jet Aviation and Lufthansa Technik unveiled 787 VIP interior concepts at NBAA.
BBJ announced VIP versions of the 747-8 and 787 at the show
Airbus executive and private aviation vice-president Richard Gaona says that with 22 ACJ orders and commitments so far this year, "the need to find slots for our customers has become one of our critical paths".
Despite Airbus pushing up A320 family production to 32 aircraft a month, finding slots is still a challenge, he says. "In 2007 we were supposed to get eight slots, and we will be delivering 14. Between 12 and 15 per year is our target." Overall sales of the ACJ family have now topped 80.
Gaona says the first VIP A380 could be sold by the end of the year. The potential customer is believed to have budgeted around $500 million for the head-of-state aircraft and, if the sale is agreed, it would be the first of what Gaona says is a "five to 10 VIP aircraft market".