Saudi Arabian executive transport specialist National Air Services has become the first customer in the Middle East to order the new corporate version of the Airbus A318, with a commitment for up to 10 aircraft.

National Air Services, which is based in Jeddah, is to acquire five A318 Elite twinjets and has placed options for another five. Delivery of the aircraft is set to begin in the fourth quarter of 2006.

The A318s will be used for VIP services within the Middle East and on services to Europe.

National Air Services has not immediately disclosed its engine choice. But it operates a pair of CFM International CFM56-powered Airbus A319 Corporate Jets through its Al-Khayala all-premium airline, which started scheduled flights between Jeddah and Riyadh earlier this year.

The company also has a pair of VIP Airbus A320s and an Airbus Corporate Jet for private charter operations, plus a fleet of smaller executive aircraft.

Airbus, which disclosed the National Air Services order during the Dubai Air Show, formally revealed the A318 Elite derivative earlier this month and said Swiss business jet operator Comlux had become the first client for the type.

The aircraft is typically configured to accommodate 14-18 passengers.

National Air Services president and CEO Mohammed Al Zeer says quality and comfort are crucial to the company’s business, adding: “When you are in the market for private jet transport of around 15 passengers, you cannot beat the space, comfort and economics of the A318 Elite.”

Purchase of the A318s will be funded by the Calyon financial group, which was formed by the combination of investment bank activities at Credit Agricole Indosuez and Credit Lyonnais.

Source: Flight International