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Seaman: Go Big or Go Home…

For some, the corporate jet has to be more than just nice seats.


September 26, 2007
By Rob Seaman

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While many wait for the much-anticipated arrival of VLJs to Canadian
skies, at the other end of the scale there is growing interest in
purpose- developed large corporate aircraft. Increasingly we see
bizjets that can accommodate 12 passengers and more coming out of the
completion centres, sporting interiors that include conference and
meeting capability, multiple cabin areas, communication and
entertainment amenities and a wide variety of ownerrequested custom
features. These aircraft are plush and fancy, but their owners and
operators are using them with more frequency, on longer routes and with
higher passenger density than in the recent past – so they need to be.
The long-range bizjet of today is a critical tool for the corporate
world in becoming globally connected. They offer total control over
flight times, operate to highly customized specification and provide
efficiency and security – elements which the commercial airline sector
is unable or unwilling to provide.

Then
there is the conversion of former commercial airliners into corporate
aircraft. Specialty shops like Texas-based Gore Design and Europe’s
Lufthansa Technik have built businesses out of such conversions. The
demand is there, and the waiting list is long. In fact, Gore reported
having trouble finding enough B767s to meet the need.

Here at
home, Peterborough-based Flying Colours had made its mark by taking
older CRJ 200s and turning them into 15-seat corporate aircraft. It has
even taken care of the required STC to increase the range through
addition of a tail tank for fuel. The aircraft arrive in their old
airline configuration, and leave six months or so later with new paint,
an extensive overhaul, a new interior and a new purpose. This reuse of
aircraft represents a much better use of resources than the alternative
of relegating them to the boneyard or ultimately the landfill.

The
traditional big corporate jet was always the Gulfstream, until a few
years ago. when Bombardier answered the market call with the Global
Express. This long-range Canadian contribution to the global aviation
market now has as loyal a following as the Gulfstream. And the market
is not stopping there. Dassault Falcon Jet now holds the
much-anticipated type certificate for the Falcon 7X – fast, with a
great cabin, fuel efficiency and range to boast about, and the latest
in full fly-by-wire technology.

The waiting list for all these
aircraft is growing – two to three years on average – and along with
that, the price. Some resale versions of the Global and Gulfstream
products are now fetching more than the cost of a factory-new order,
simply because they are available now, without the wait.

Moving
up a notch in size, Boeing and Airbus have taken their rivalry to the
corporate sector too – offering new from the factory, purpose-designed
bizjets based on the B737- 700/800 and A319/320. With both the BBJ and
Airbus Corporate Jetliner, discretion is the word. They look for the
most part, at least externally, to be just another airliner. But the
inside story is a whole different tale. The seating and cabin options
are unlimited – and for what they cost they should be!

Even
Bombardier has taken the challenge and redeveloped the CRJ 200 into
something called the Challenger 850. There are some fuselage
alterations externally that distinguish the 850 from the RJ, but really
the story is once again inside with the cabin and layout. The first 850
to become an operational part of the Canadian civil registry was days
away as this was being written.

Embraer too has taken this
market seriously, redeveloping its commercial regional hauler into the
soon-to-be-flying Lineage 1000 – a purposebuilt corporate-style
alternative. And at the very extreme end of the big bizjet scale – yes,
there are confirmed orders for the Airbus A380 in corporate
configuration! This one gives you the option to take a whole bunch of
business colleagues on the road in what Airbus calls a “flying palace.”

Most
of today’s purpose-built large corporate aircraft and refurbished older
commercial variants have all the appointments and facilities that make
them a true extension of the corporate office for their owners. They
fill a need – and one that obviously the corporate world feels a
justification for. And frankly, anytime that a “need” in aviation is
filled in some way, that spells success for our industry as a whole –
through jobs and money that comes back into the economy at many levels.

So keep ‘em flying! And build them as big as you want! We all need the work.


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