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The Jet Set

CEOs and Entrepreneurs Queue Up To Buy the Ultimate in Private UltraLong- Distance Jet Travel
Barry Rosenberg
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99

(continued from page 3)

Airbus's A319CJ Corporate Jetliner is almost identical to its A319 narrowbody jetliner, but it carries more fuel.

Though Airbus's long-range business jet orders are fourth in the four-company race, Airbus executives believe they will make up ground in the coming years--particularly because the A319CJ's cabin is larger than all of its competitors, including the BBJ, and because of its fly-by-wire flight control system, which relies on electrical connections rather than metal cables.

"We think there is a demand for 20 to 24 airline-class business jets per year," says John Leahy, Airbus's senior vice president for commercial aircraft. "Boeing thinks they'll take all of it, but we think we will take half that, which is the same rate in the commercial market in the competition between the 737 and A319."

Though Leahy would not name any A319CJ buyers, he says Airbus has 12 firm commitments for the aircraft. The only announced customer is a conglomerate of Kuwaiti companies called Mohamed Abdulmohsin Al Kharafi. M.A. Al Kharafi's A319CJ will be configured to carry up to 30 passengers, with a mixed layout for VIPs and guests.

The manufacturers aren't shy about discussing what they believe are the unique merits of their jets. Gulfstream, for instance, touts the fact that its Gulfstream V is the only one of the four aircraft to have been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as of the first quarter of 1999. While the other planes are awaiting certification, company spokemen note, the GV is being delivered to customers today.

The GV has set 55 world and national records--30 city-pair records and 25 performance records for distance, speed, altitude, time-to-climb and payload carrying capability--since receiving FAA certification in 1997. In one example, a GV with seven passengers and a crew of four flew from Washington, D.C., to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on a nonstop flight of 6,330 nautical miles in 12 hours, 40 minutes. Average speed was 556 miles an hour.

In mid-1998, the aircraft was also honored with aviation's most prestigious award, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, by the National Aeronautical Association. The trophy has been awarded annually since 1911 "for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year." Past recipients include pioneers Orville Wright and Chuck Yeager.

While the Gulfstream V's accomplishments have been impressive, Bombardier has not been shy about discussing the GV's shortcomings--particularly that the aircraft is a derivative of an older design. To some customers, this is an advantage, because these older designs have proven their reliability over time. But not to Bombardier.

Of the four competing aircraft, only Bombardier's Global Express can boast of a built-from-scratch design. The other business jets are modified versions of existing aircraft, with some of their designs two decades old.

"The primary reason we went with Bombardier was because they designed an aircraft for the twenty-first century instead of extending older technologies," says casino builder Marnell, whose company now flies a GIV but has ordered a Global Express, which Bombardier will deliver in about a year. "The other manufacturers are taking an engineering idea that is probably 25 years old and continually extending that design. We felt, as an investment, we were compelled to go with next-generation technology."


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