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IAI to build more business jets
IAI to build more business jets

A joint venture between Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. will boost production of its business aircraft by at least 21 percent this year as soaring fuel prices fail to deter demand, according to Joe Lombardo, president of Gulfstream, a unit of General Dynamics Corp. and the world´s second-largest maker of business aircraft.

"Rising fuel prices don´t seem to be impacting our sales," he said Wednesday at IAI´s headquarters at Ben-Gurion Airport. "Demand remains high. Furthermore, the dollar´s decline signifies higher sales to our international customers."

After doubling production of commercial aircraft in two years to 58 in 2007, the venture plans to build at least 70 in 2008, according to Lombardo. More than 160 Gulfstream G200 and 25 G150 jets produced by the venture are now operating internationally.

Lombardo spoke at a news conference marking the completion of the 200th Gulfstream G200 jet built by the seven-year-old joint venture between Gulfstream and IAI. State-owned IAI, which makes missiles and electronic warfare equipment, is seeking to expand its civilian business. The Finance Ministry reportedly has begun talks with labor unions about a plan to sell 30% of IAI on the stock market. About 14,000 business jets valued at $ 233 billion will be sold by 2017, according to a report in September by Honeywell International Inc., the world´s largest maker of airplane controls.

Gulfstream sales rose 17% to $ 4.8b. last year, with overseas orders surpassing US bookings for the first time. Gulfstream said in March it will begin building the G650 - the first new model announced since 2004 - as a weaker dollar boosts sales to Russia, China, India and Brazil.

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