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Me & my aircraft - long range and large business aircraft: Long range charter sector rides high despite the challenging world economy
Our ‘Me and My Aircraft’ reader survey and review continues, and this month the spotlight falls on the long range and large business aircraft sector.

Our ‘Me and My Aircraft’ reader survey and review continues, and this month the spotlight falls on the long range and large business aircraft sector. We decided to include business aircraft with a range in excess of 3,500nm and/or a cabin of 2,500 square feet, although opinions do vary on the meaning of ‘long range’.

In this report we talk to some owners and operators about the aircraft they fly, their strengths and failings. We asked about maintenance support, dispatch reliability, operating capabilities and value for money as well as more generally for the best and worst aspects of the aircraft, and most desirable upgrades.

Only EBAN readers who we have been able to verify as confirmed current users of a particular aircraft type are given access to the relevant survey forms.

AIRBUS: ACJ318 and ACJ319

The airliner heritage of the ACJ318 makes it a very robust aircraft, and operators who use it are pleased with its performance. Martin Lener of Tyrolean Jet Services comments that the aircraft has a great dispatch reliability and that, due to the high number of A320 series deliveries, the aircraft type is very well engineered. Lener also praises the range capability, as this aircraft has proper range for non-stop flights across the Atlantic, with extensive baggage capacity of 12.7 cubic metres.

He says that it is a very efficient aircraft that offers 20 per cent more cabin height and 65 per cent more cabin width when compared with a G550, and this doesn’t come at significant additional cost. It has a 5.5 degree steep approach capability allowing it to land at such runways as London City, and also benefits from excellent worldwide customer support due to the number of A320 series in the skies. Lener does, however, feel that the customer support at Airbus for the ACJ in particular could be improved. His most desirable upgrade is Additional Centre Tank modification (ACT).

Héloïse Faury of Global Jet is also satisfied with its ACJ318. She believes it is very good value for money and has good maintenance support.

Tyrolean also operates an ACJ319 and Martin Lener is equally impressed with its capability. “This aircraft benefits from continuing innovation and runs very well, balanced with three additional centre tanks giving it a range of 5,000nm,” he says. He is happy with the quick on-site support on offer but once again comments that Airbus does not seem to be as dedicated to business aviation as traditional business jet OEMs. Lener says that the most desirable upgrade is high speed internet in the ACJ319.

BOEING: B727, B737, B757 and BBJ

Despite the greater age of the aircraft, Abdul Latif of Al-Anwa Establishment is happy with the overall performance of his B727-200.

Andrew Hallak of GainJet operates a vip 737-400 and is delighted with Boeing’s “vast network” of maintenance support. Getting spare parts is not an issue and Hallak remarks: “The aircraft has proven to be reliable and has served our operation well – we have been able to depend on the vip B737 to get the job done.”

The aircraft currently has a six-hour flight range but this will be increased to intercontinental range of eight hours once the auxiliary fuel tanks are added. Hallak continues: “The large baggage hold capacity, about 5.7 tonnes, is a very favourable feature, especially with sports teams and music bands. But its reliability is the best thing. The operation cost is high but that is only to be expected.” In terms of upgrading he would like to be able to accommodate all 68 passengers in vip seating.

Ejaz Syed of Arabasco used to operate a B737-200 and had stated that his most desirable upgrade would be another 737. Several months down the line his wishes have been fulfilled and the company now operates a 737-500 with vip configuration. Syed says that the best thing about the aircraft is its dispatch reliability, although he still feels there is room for improved avionics. Hashem Jamalallail, also of Arabasco, is equally happy with the performance of its aircraft. He believes that despite the high operation cost there is more cabin space available and this is a great advantage.

GainJet operates a B-757 and Andrew Hallak says that the aircraft offers a combination of “capacity, luxury and range.” It accommodates up to 62 passengers in all-vip seating and also features a bedroom and an en-suite. The baggage compartment is vast, with capacity up to 10 tonnes, and the aircraft has a range of up to nine-and-a-half hours. Hallak says that the aircraft is ideal for the operation it serves and is an ideal product for the clientele who tend to charter it. It has proven to be a good investment, due to its reliability and versatility, combined with the company’s service and experience. Hallak concludes that the vip airliner market is a tricky one, and that beyond having the right product, as it has found in its vip B757, it requires years of experience to serve this market.

The Boeing Business Jet series has proved popular with operators. One EBAN reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, holds the capacity and cabin configuration potential of the aircraft in high regard. They did feel that the BBJ would benefit from Wi-Fi and satcom technologies, however. D

ASSAULT: Falcon 7X and Falcon 900

The Falcon 7X is widely used, and captain Eduard Meisel of Jetalliance is very satisfied overall with the aircraft. He says that TAG at Geneva provides a good service centre while pointing out that the centre at Paris is “not so good.” He continues: “The aircraft has good range and a calm, quiet cabin with low fuel consumption. We see no need for an upgrade; it is perfect as it is.”

Kimon Daniilidis of Interjet, Greece, also uses a Falcon 7X and says that the best thing about the aircraft is its cost-efficiency. Daniilidis does, however, state that an improved baggage compartment and greater range are most desired.

One anonymous user says that they were very satisfied with the maintenance support offered for the 7X, and says that the aircraft is good for short runways with no EROPS or ETOPS issues. They do, however, believe that the reliability of the Global is far superior.

Nuno Neto of Vinair has enjoyed “excellent” product support from the Dassault team. He does comment that there had been “too many small problems” regarding the dispatch reliability though. He nonetheless believes the aircraft has impressive performance, flexibility and flying capability, despite some software problems. EASy II installation is the most desired upgrade.

Ejaz Syed responded to our survey last year to say that he is pleased with the dispatch reliability, operating capability and value of his Falcon 900. However, he is unhappy with the maintenance support on offer: “It is getting increasingly difficult to maintain the Falcon due to the high price of spares and the near monopoly Dassault have on this.” He says that the aircraft has developed “uncanny types of corrosion” and would prefer to go for something in the Bombardier group or the Brazilian market.

Another user declares himself very satisfied with the dispatch reliability of his Falcon 900EX Classic, which stands at over 99 per cent. He describes the short field capability as “astounding” and says that performance is very good, even when met with 150kt headwinds. He enjoys having no ETOPS restrictions and says his aircraft is “very fuel efficient.” Flying characteristics are “very nice” and he speaks of a typical response from a pilot flying the aircraft, which is that it is “nothing like a Falcon.” Due to its straight leg landing gear it is a challenge to perform a ‘greaser’ landing, and the contributor feels that the aircraft is improved by having winglets.

An anonymous user provided feedback for their 900EX EASy and felt happy overall with its performance, describing it as an aircraft with a good deal of flexibility. The user does comment that there was a lot of noise in the cabin and that the aircraft would be enhanced by installing more effective noise cancellation.

Hashem Jamalallail of Arabasco comments that the company’s Falcon 900 performs well and he is particularly impressed with its range. However, he did state that there are not enough MROs in Arabasco’s area of operation.

BOMBARDIER: Global 5000 and Global Express

Victor Ivan of Tiriac Air operates a Global 5000 and is happy with the speed, range and comfort of the aircraft. He feels the aircraft would benefit from a Vision flightdeck.

Stephane Leporq of Bouygues Service Transport Air operates the same aircraft type and is happy on all fronts with what it offers, despite experiencing some electronic bugs.

The Global Express has proved an extremely popular aircraft with operators, and ACM’s Jonas Kraft is keen to point out that the dispatch reliability of his XRS and Global 6000 is “much better than the Falcon 7X.” ACM performs its own maintenance from Baden-Baden and is able to run an efficient operation by doing so. Kraft affirms that the Globals are a “very good brand with great reliability and they have the best cabin in this class of aircraft.” He does feel occasionally let down by the support of Bombardier.

Martin Lener of Tyrolean also experienced issues with its Global Express when it first entered service, saying: “It has suffered from a serious spare parts supply problem.” This was back in 2003 and since then the aircraft has been trouble-free. Lener is very happy with the Pininfarina interior of his Global Express with XRS compliant cabin. He explains that operations are helped by having in-house maintenance provider Tyrolean Jet Services on hand for regular checks. He believes that the cabin in the aircraft is of the highest quality and will only be surpassed by the G650. The aircraft has a “state-of- the-art concept” and is working very well for the company. Increased cabin pressure modification is one alteration Lener believes would be desirable.

GULFSTREAM: G-550

Gulfstream’s business jet range has always carried with it a reputation for luxury, and its operators demand the highest standards in reliability and performance. One anonymous user is very satisfied in all areas with his G-550 and praises the maintenance support of AMAC Aerospace in Basel, which gives “outstanding customer support.” They enjoy good support from the tech ops at Gulfstream and say that assistance is always at hand in AOG situations. They feel that the comfort, range and speed of the aircraft are its strongest attributes, while expressing concern at the cost of Gulfstream and Rolls Royce parts, which they describe as “very expensive.” The feedback provided hinted at a desire for the display unit to be upgraded to DU-885s, however this is perceived to be costly.

SMC Aviation’s Kjell Nordbaek operates a G550 and is very happy with its range and performance. He believes the aircraft is very good value for money, but does remark that its last visit to the Savannah service centre was not a positive one.

Andrew Hallak has received consistently good support for GainJet’s Gulfstream fleet; the company has taken delivery of 14 Gulfstreams since 2006 and Hallak comments: “Wherever we have required support, it usually has been readily available and reliable.” He sums up his thoughts on the G550 as follows: “This is an excellent aircraft, designed to offer a very high degree of performance. It’s proven to be reliable and is one of the most superior performance executive jets available. This is the reason we have taken delivery of two of them in our history.” Hallak singles out the 13.5 hour range as one of the aircraft’s most appealing aspects and believes that, despite the high price tag, “you get what you pay for, so it is good value for money.” A combination of comfort and convenience make it a very attractive aircraft to offer to clients, he says.

Michal Pazourek comments that ABS Jets also operates a G550 and is equally happy with the results. “This aircraft has good operational reliability over a long period of time, even under extreme climatic conditions,” he says. He is happy that the aircraft enables the company to serve long-haul passengers while also being capable of landing on shorter runways. The aircraft can fly above the NAT-OTS system which is another helpful feature. He believes the aircraft can be improved through the installation of satellite datalink. n

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