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Qatar orders corporate airliner

Airbus Industrie has clinched the first sale of a corporate-configured airliner to a scheduled airline in what appears to be the opening round of a competition with the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) to fill an emerging requirement from the high-end, premium travel market.

Qatar Airways has ordered one Airbus A319CJ, taken an option on another, and plans to use the aircraft on a mix of private charters and scheduled services from Doha to destinations like London and Singapore. The International Aero Engines V2500-powered aircraft will be outfitted with 36 first-class sleeperette seats and a luxurious interior. The Qatar deal takes firm orders for the A319CJ to 26.

"There are others after Qatar that will follow this approach," says Airbus Corporate Jetliner president Richard Gaona, who adds that sustained passenger growth of as much as 6% per year and the demand for fast point-to-point travel for executives will push demand for more dedicated corporate airliners on scheduled services. "I think there will be other airlines, and maybe here in the USA," Gaona adds. Continuing uncertainty over the future of Concorde is also stimulating the potential market, which is estimated at 25 in Europe alone, Gaona says.

Airbus has also signed a co-operation agreement with IAE to supply the 27,000lb-thrust (120kN) V2527M-A5 as the baseline A319CJ powerplant. To date, 22 of the A319CJs ordered have been IAE-powered. Airbus has also selected Air France Industries as the fifth and final ACJ completion centre alongside Lufthansa Technik, Jet Aviation, Ozark Aircraft Systems and Associated Air Center.

Meanwhile, BBJ sales are also accelerating and stand at 71. Boosted by availability of the stretched BBJ 2, Boeing forecasts potential annual sales of between 18 and 24 aircraft per year versus original estimates of around 10. Four of the currently contracted BBJs are the stretched model, though sales of an additional four are being finalised, says Boeing Business Jets president Borge Boeskov.

"We see the "big" Boeing company being much more excited about business aviation than they were before," says Boeskov, who adds that "we are certainly looking at expanding the family further with the BBJ 3." The 757-200-based BBJ 3 will have 25% more floor space than the 737-800-based BBJ 2, and will have 13,000km (7,000nm)-plus range. "However, we are taking our time with that, and its not ready to offer yet," he cautions.

Boeing NetJets, a joint venture between Boeing and Executive Jet, has also signed a deal with Lufthansa Technik covering the completion of up to 30 BBJs between 2001 and 2008, including aircraft which were previously booked to be completed by delay-prone Raytheon.

The first of 10 on firm order is scheduled to enter completion in Hamburg in January, and will be delivered to NetJets "no later than 15 August 2001", says Lufthansa Technik.

Downtimes are expected to be five months each, compared with other completions that have taken as much as 18 months in the worst cases, adds Boeing, which holds options for completion of another 20 aircraft from 2003 to 2008.

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