Market reaction to the ACJ TwoTwenty (220)—the newest member of Airbus Corporate Jets' executive airliner fleet introduced last fall—has been “very positive,” according to company president Benoit Defforge. However, the continued global pandemic lockdown has slowed sales activity. Notching orders is “taking a bit longer than we expected,” he said, citing second-wave lockdowns and prospects’ continued caution. “Our customers have made a lot of money these last months, but the situation is so unstable.”
The absence again this year of EBACE, a prime stage for Airbus Corporate Jets, won't help, either. Defforge said the orders for six aircraft announced at the program's launch are still in hand for the TwoTwenty, which is based on the A220-100 single-aisle airliner.
Airbus Corporate Jets calls the TwoTwenty an “Xtra Large Bizjet,” a new category of business aircraft and “an alternative to the traditional large-cabin business jet and the bizliner,” in Defforge’s words. It offers three times the interior space, yet the same hangar footprint and a lower price than the largest business jets, meaning it will cost less than $72 million. Bizliner operators opting for the A220 variant, meanwhile, can save significantly on purchase and operating costs, he added.
The company launched the TwoTwenty in partnership with Swiss-based bizliner services specialist Comlux Group, the world’s largest owner and operator of executive-configured airliners. Comlux Completion in Indianapolis will outfit the cabins of the first 15 TwoTwentys, offering customers a selection of predefined configuration options that will provide “a unique interior within a minimized time frame,” Comlux Completion CEO Daron Dryer told AIN. The Comlux Group has ordered the first two ACJ220s for its own account, to be available for charter and sale through Comlux Aviation, its Malta-based operations division.
The interiors will feature a “very open design meant to provide spaciousness” and “use as much sustainable material—textiles and carpets using natural fibers without chemical dyes—as possible,” Dryer said. The open design will reduce cabin weight, lowering fuel burn, and together with the use of sustainable materials in the cabin will lessen the aircraft’s lifetime carbon footprint. Outfitting options will include veneers and other components created with sustainable processes without compromising comfort, look, or feel, he added.
The first green ACJ220 is scheduled for induction in early 2022, with service entry in early 2023. Engineering of standard and optional cabin and interiors components is in development, and Airbus Corporate Jets is concurrently developing a low-utilization maintenance plan for the platform.
With a comfortable 6,000-foot maximum cabin altitude and 5,650-nm range, the ACJ220 will be capable of linking London and Los Angeles, Moscow and Jakarta, Tokyo and Dubai, or Beijing and Melbourne. Though falling short of the Bombardier Global 7500’s and Gulfstream G700’s legs, ACJ analyzed 16,000 flights of private aircraft with a range greater than the ACJ220’s and found “only 2 percent were more than 6,000 nm,” Defforge said, adding that many passengers would likely prefer a much larger cabin and a fuel stop for such ultra-long journeys.
Airbus Corporate Jets also believes the ACJ220 is well-positioned for sales in the U.S., business aviation’s global capital: The airframe is made in Alabama, the engines are built in Connecticut, and the completions are performed in Indiana. The A220’s bones are also North American. Developed by Bombardier as a next-generation short-haul airliner (the CSeries) and incorporating contemporary technologies throughout the airframe, the program was acquired by Airbus in 2018.
ACJ doesn’t disclose projected orders, but with vaccines promising a return of normalcy to global business aviation operations, Defforge said his company is optimistic that stalled TwoTwenty sales will take off this year. Summed up Stan Shparberg, v-p commercial at Airbus, “We expect a good number of opportunities will come our way.”