Airbus comes to NBAA-BACE 2022 with fresh optimism over the U.S. business jet market, and particularly for the ACJ TwoTwenty—the company’s large-cabin business jet offering based on the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G-powered A220 airliner. Scheduled for delivery from sole completions center Comlux in Indianapolis early next year, the first ACJ TwoTwenty marks the start of a production run for which Airbus will set aside between four and six delivery slots in the coming years, according to Airbus Corporate Jets president Benoit Defforge.
Speaking with AIN just ahead of the show, Defforge predicted deliveries to eventually reach between eight and ten annually, thanks largely to projected demand from the U.S. In fact, the Airbus executive called the ACJ TwoTwenty—built at the former Bombardier CSeries production line in Mirabel, Canada—a “North American airplane” whose design ideally fits the North American market.
Drawing its launch customer from Dubai, the TwoTwenty has already proven its global appeal, notwithstanding some criticism that its 5,600-nm range won’t allow for nonstop flights from the Middle East to the West Coast of the U.S., for example. Defforge noted, however, that in his discussions with potential customers, few want to fly such long distances, even in a cabin whose floor space measures twice the size of what Airbus considers the TwoTwenty’s direct competitors.
“All of the customers I have met said, no, I will never fly direct from the Middle East to Los Angeles,” he explained. “I would rather have a stop in Paris or London, I will spend one night there, we will go for shopping, and then I will go for a second leg…I see in certain cases the need for more [range], but it is sort of an incredible battle for me, this battle for range that nearly nobody is using.”
Defforge cited an Airbus analysis showing that of 16,000 flight legs by business jets capable of flying 5,500 nm during two quarters of 2019, only 3 percent traveled beyond that range. “Yes, some customers can need to fly more than 5,500 nm; if you go down to 4,500 nm, you are dead because a lot of point-to-points go beyond that,” he asserted. “When you arrive at 5,500 nm, you have the perfect range. I’m not saying we can fill 100 percent of the need. I’m saying we can fill more than 95 percent of the need.”
While Defforge conceded competitors such as the longer-range and speedier large-cabin Gulfstreams or Falcons have their place, he compared the difference between those airplanes and the ACJ TwoTwenty to the distinction between a Rolls-Royce automobile and a Ferrari. “I’m not saying the Rolls-Royce is better than the Ferrari,” he noted. “I’m just saying it’s offering a different experience overall.”
With 786 sq ft of floor space, the ACJ TwoTwenty design allows for six cabin zones, each measuring 130 sq ft. Although certified to carry the same number of passengers specified in competing large-cabin bizjets at 19, the TwoTwenty offers what Airbus calls unmatched comfort and layout flexibility.
“It makes a real difference when you arrive at the end of your journey,” said Defforge. “We have a real bedroom. If you have, for example, the CEO of a corporation with his team, the CEO will have his office/bedroom in the back with a real bathroom. And the team can sleep very comfortably if you want to fly 10 hours. In that case, you have eight, ten, twelve people flying with a personal assistant, which works very well with our aircraft.”
From an economic perspective, the ACJ TwoTwenty will benefit greatly from the pricing power Airbus derives from its high-volume airliner business, noted Defforge. It benefits from ample spare parts and maintenance capacity, he explained, adding that a tire for a TwoTwenty costs a tenth of that for a typical business jet. Meanwhile, airline operators have flown more hours with the relatively young A220 family than much older business jet models have flown in their lifetimes, a fact, explained Defforge, that speaks to the Airbus jet’s operational and design maturity.
Airbus doesn’t publish a list price for the ACJ TwoTwenty, so Defforge would say only that it would compare favorably to the alternatives. That puts it in the $70 million range.
He added that the company’s decision to rely on a single partner for the interiors also keeps costs lower and helps flatten the so-called learning curve. Airbus will not sell the TwoTwenty as a green airplane as it sometimes does with the ACJ320 family. Instead, it offers customers more than 100 predefined layout alternatives from Comlux’s facility in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, Defforge rejected any suggestion that customers might object to a lack of choice of completion centers. “At the end, it’s an ACJ, and we are taking responsibility for that,” he said. “It would have been different if it would not be a package aircraft and cabin…if I were to have said to you I’ll sell you a green aircraft and you take care of the cabin yourself but you have only one outfitting center, that would have been a difficulty.”