An excellent 2017 is followed by first hand-over of the upgraded, MAX version of BBJ.
Business Jets executives arrive at EBACE 2018 with a spring in their step, buoyed by the upsurge in orders recently booked for a reinvigorated product. Furthermore, the first BBJ MAX is now flying – unlike its ACJ320neo competitor – although, admittedly, only as a ‘green’ airframe currently receiving its extra fuel tanks before outfitting with an interior.
Recording 16 orders during 2017, BBJ has had its best year for two decades, the run continuing with four more signings during the last five months. Perhaps surprisingly, not all of the latest are MAX reservations, but the two included in this year’s tally augment the 19 backlog previously held.
“We continue to see a lot of customer interest in Boeing’s family of business jets and that is translating into new orders and a growing backlog,” said Greg Laxton, leader of Boeing Business Jets. “Customers seek more space and greater range, which is driving significant growth in the large cabin segment.”
Employing advanced engines and improved aerodynamics of the new 737 MAX airliner, the BBJ MAX delivers 14 percent better fuel efficiency as well as offering its crew 787-style flight deck displays and several advanced new systems.
On current plans, three sizes of MAX BBJ will be available eventually, following the introduction of each aircraft’s equivalent-length airliner: BBJ MAX 8, BBJ MAX 9 and BBJ MAX 7.
Boeing handed over the first BBJ MAX 8 in April. After the installation of auxiliary fuel tanks, which will enable the new owner to fly up to 6,640 nm (12,297 km) in a standard configuration, the interior will be completed and the airframe painted in the U.S. by Comlux, of Indianapolis.
Comlux – a Swiss-based VIP aircraft management, operating and charter company – secured the cabin outfitting contract of the first BBJ MAX 8 for an undisclosed customer last year. After receiving its extra tanks, the aircraft will arrive at Indianapolis in the fourth quarter of 2018, and enter service in fall 2019.
“The first MAX 8 signature [paves] the way for establishing Comlux as a leader in the VIP completions market,” said Scott Meyer, CEO, Comlux Completion. The projects were won in the face of an oversupplied market that has seen the closure of four completions businesses over the past three years.
But that’s not all. Comlux had the foresight to buy three Airbus ACJ320neo and two Boeing BBJ MAX aircraft for ‘green’ delivery in 2018-19, two to three years ahead of the next available delivery slots from the manufacturer. Its plan is to complete them in Indianapolis; sell them to those who don’t want to wait their turn; and – the icing on the cake—operate them for the customer as well. According to Comlux Group chairman Richard Gaona, the gamble is paying off – handsomely.