VIP airliner specialist Comlux Aviation Group (Booth 2435) is highlighting this week at NBAA-BACE its new ACJ320neo completion, and the forthcoming availability of the ACJ TwoTwenty. The latter is the newest member of the ACJ family, which the Swiss company is launching (as interior completions provider) in partnership with Airbus Corporate Jets.
Group founder and chairman Richard Gaona told AIN the market for preowned executive airliners is “active,” but for new models access is restricted to OEMs, clients, and prospects, due to the pandemic, making sales “very complicated.” He added, “You can’t sell an [executive] aircraft on video.”
The just-completed ACJ320neo’s brief visit to Las Vegas for BACE, where it touched down at Harry Reid International Airport, is a case in point.
“This aircraft was supposed to be certified by EASA, but [due to Covid] EASA cannot come to the U.S.,” Gaona said. With a stopgap UK Civil Aviation Authority certification, Comlux then had to secure an FAA flight permit for the flight to Las Vegas and back—just as the U.S. government teetered on the edge of hitting the debt limit and shutting down.
Comlux owns and will operate the ACJ320neo, which is available for charter and for sale (and subsequent management) through Malta-based Comlux Aviation. Known for bringing new innovations to every completion project, the newly outfitted 320neo (the second VIP 320neo Comlux has completed) may signal a momentary plateauing of advances.
“We have everything on this aircraft,” said Gaona, citing a humidification system, ultra-fast Ka-band connectivity, and noise insulation, as well as a new, future-proof wireless in-flight entertainment system. “Before, if there was a technology change, you had to remove and rewire everything—this is over now,” Gaona said, adding, “Daron [Dryer, CEO of Comlux Completion, the group’s purpose-built completion facility in Indianapolis, Indiana] said, ‘I don’t’ know what else we could install.’”
Meanwhile, Comlux Completion is preparing to induct the first green ACJ TwoTwenty from Airbus's A220 U.S. factory in Alabama. That aircraft is slated for arrival this December, with service entry in early 2023. Comlux has purchased the first two.
“The world is discovering the TwoTwenty,” Gaona said, with most interest “coming from Gulfstream, Bombardier, and Dassault [customers],” rather than the BBJ and ACJ worlds. Comlux is displaying a TwoTwenty cabin section mockup this week in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The mockup at its NBAA-BACE booth is equipped with virtual reality goggles that enable attendees “to be able to see the entire aircraft, without moving,” Gaona said.
Based on the A220-100 single-aisle airliner, the “Xtra Large Bizjet,” as Airbus Corporate Jets calls it, is designed as an alternative to either a large cabin business jet —offering three times the interior space, same hangar footprint, and similar price (~$72 million)—or a single-aisle bizliner, with similar cabin size at a substantially lower purchase and operating cost. Comlux will outfit the first 15, to feature spacious, open designs with chromatic windows (a first for ACJs), and sustainable materials. It will offer a choice of predefined cabin configurations to minimize completion time and costs.
Gaona began his career as an aerospace engineer at Airbus, and when asked about the relationship between his career then and now, he said, “Selling an aircraft is more difficult than making a spreadsheet. I don’t think I could sell VIP airliners if I didn’t understand what I’m talking about. Honestly, it’s not a job. I really enjoy what I’m doing, discussing technical matters with clients.”