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Entrepreneur 'screen tests' ABJ design for the maximum charter appeal
Bulgarian entrepreneur Ivo Kamenov works hard and is determined to make the most of any precious leisure time.

Bulgarian entrepreneur Ivo Kamenov works hard and is determined to make the most of any precious leisure time. He wanted a 42" Bang & Olufsen flat screen plasma television and its renowned surround sound system to enjoy on board his recently purchased and converted Avro Business Jet (ABJ).

Kamenov's astute approach was to compare the merits of an ABJ conversion with a bespoke interior at a cost in the region of US$10 million to that of an aircraft with similar capacity, albeit offering lower running costs and longer range, which are only available new for a price in the region of US$70 million.

The entrepreneur also made sure that the Avro RJ70 would be chartered to its maximum. He ordered that the interior design, advanced by Design Q after detailed research into his individual taste, be adapted to appeal to as wide a range of charter clients as possible.

Gary Doy, joint founder of Design Q, says: "Younger design aware customers are entering the marketplace and are looking for more contemporary and high quality interiors with a trend towards more open plan layouts and modern surface finishes. This is what we have done with the Bulgarian Air ABJ after intensive research into the owner's requirements."

Kamenov's company, Bulgaria Air, is the latest operator to build executive charter business through acquiring an ABJ. Peter Vassilev, manager executive flights, charter department, says: "The aircraft has attracted a great many businessmen, banks, musicians and bands.

"Santana for example chartered it for their European tour and we also hope to work for Depeche Mode in the near future. The owner has ensured an interior design that appeals to a very wide audience."

The conversion of the Avro RJ70, originally built to fly 90 passengers, into a luxury configuration designed for 20 to 26 people was carried out by Inflite Engineering of Stansted airport who fitted the Design Q interior.

Capt. Valeri Dimitrov, who trains the ABJ's four crews, says: "The aircraft has the ability to land at airports with runways as short as 1,200 metres and London City is certainly possible within the proper safety margins."

Dimitrov, who has gained around 6,000 hours in a variety of aircraft, says the range of 1,500 to 1,600 nm means clients can enjoy non-stop journeys between destinations such as Sofia and Madrid in great luxury.

Bulgaria Air has brought the aircraft into charter operation on behalf of its parent company, the Varna-based diversified industrial group TIM, owned by Kamenov, and its maintenance base is in Sofia. Vassilev says they plan that the newly-chartered aircraft will soon reach a charter level of 50 hours a month and he is hopeful that 200 hours will be reached as the RJ70's capabilities become known.

Stewart Cordner, vp Avro Business Jets for BAE Systems, says: "Over the past 12 months the pace of market success for the ABJ has accelerated with seven aircraft placed into the market in various corporate/VIP configurations. These are for governments, high net worth individuals and charter organisations. Clients include the presidential flight of Abu Dhabi and more recently Casino Rodos."

Over the years BAE Systems has developed a series of modifications. "However, a number of these are ideal for corporate operators," Cordner points out. "These include gravel runway kits to allow safe and protected operations into unsurfaced airfields. There are also pannier fuel tanks for extra range, forward and rear airstairs, vip toilet modules, LCD flight deck flat panel displays, several approved interior features for seats, divans, mood lighting and comms and IFE - there is even a modification for a live animal for the carriage of pets, should it be required."

He adds: "There are around 25 ABJs which have either been converted, or are in service, or under conversion in the market."