VIP airliner conversion specialist Project Phoenix plans to issue requests for proposals in August to three completion companies that it has shortlisted to undertake its Boeing 737-800 VIP conversion programme, dubbed the Phoenix Large Business Jet.

The official launch will be December's Middle East Business Aviation show in Dubai, when the company says it will have prepared the full data package including weights, performance and price.

"We issued 10 requests for information to completion centres in Europe, Australasia and the USA," says Project Phoenix president Mike Cappuccitti. "One declined to respond due to its large backlog of work and we eventually narrowed the candidates down to two in Europe and one in the USA."

Project Phoenix BBJ concept
 © Project Phoenix
Project phoenix BBJ concept

He will not disclose the trio's identity and, while the company's aim is select only one candidate, Project Phoenix may consider appointing a completion centre in Europe and another in the USA depending on the location of its customers.

The RFP is a vital process, Cappuccitti confirms. "It is a highly detailed document that will help us to determine a number of key factors including the Phoenix LBJ's performance, weight, price, delivery timeframe and the quality of its interior."

Project Phoenix unveiled a number of renderings of the LBJ's proposed cabin design at the EBACE business aviation exhibition in Geneva in May. Cappuccitti says the feedback from potential customers has been positive despite the economic climate.

"The indications are that the [business aviation] industry is moving towards recovery. Analysts are predicting a market for around 700 VIP converted airliners over the next 10 years and we want to be in a position to take advantage of this," says Cappuccitti.

"Project Phoenix is aiming at a 15-month programme from airframer selection, through the maintenance and completion process and then through completion," he adds.

The 737-800 is a popular aircraft and there will be an increasing number of aircraft coming into the market, he suggests. "We will be looking at half-life aircraft of around 12,000 cycles remaining - at worst that's around 24,000h - and virtually new in business aviation terms," says Cappuccitti.

The aircraft will be priced at under $50 million - "a credible alternative to the costlier BBJ", he says.

Project Phoenix already offers a Bombardier CRJ200 conversion programme, on which it has partnered Canadian completions house Flying Colours. One Phoenix CRJ200 has been sold, to a Macau-based businessman. It was delivered in October 2009.

Source: Flight International