The order had already been announced, but the identity of the purchaser of the first private Airbus A380, and thus of the biggest business jet in the world, remained a secret until the last minute. At the Dubai Air Show in November His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud came out in the open and, in the presence of Airbus CEO Tom Enders and Chief Commercial Officer John Leahy, signed the purchase agreement for the first Airbus A380 Flying Palace. The race to complete the cabin interior of the jet, which is likely to take between 18 and 24 months, is still open. 551m² of cabin floor area have to be filled. On the other hand, His Royal Highness has already decided on his engines and chosen the Rolls-Royce Trent 900. Prince Alwaleed has experience of operating large business jets, being the only private owner of a Boeing 747-400.
Another sign of just how good a market the Middle East is for this class of business jet and private aircraft was the letter of intent to purchase two Airbus A380´s signed by Al Jaber Aviation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The same company also placed a firm order for two Airbus A318 Elite, which are to be fitted out by Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg. Although A318 sales to airlines have not yet got going in earnest, the smallest Airbus type, with its combination of space, performance and price, is selling extremely well as an executive aircraft.
C Jet Ltd of Hong Kong was another company to place an order for wide-body aircraft in Dubai. C Jet, which is privately owned, not only committed itself to one Airbus (A319) ACJ but also signed a letter of intent for an Airbus A350 XWB with VIP cabin interior.
But Airbus was not the only aircraft manufacturer with every reason to feel pleased with itself on returning home from the Dubai Air Show. Dassault Aviation too sold several aircraft in the Gulf. An undisclosed customer from Saudi Arabia placed a firm order for four Falcon 7X´s with options for a further three of the latest three-engine jet. The first 7X will be delivered to the customer, who plans to use the jets for charter operations, in 2009, following which it will receive two aircraft per year. The 7X is the biggest member of the Falcon business jet family and, of all the Falcons, it is selling the best in the Gulf region.
The twin-jet Falcon 2000LX, fitted with winglets, is also attracting a lot of attention in the region. Saudi Arabian company National Air Service (NAS) confirmed a letter of intent signed in June regarding the purchase of 20 Falcon 2000LX´s.
During the Dubai Air Show in the middle of November, Bombardier Aerospace unveiled for the first time a model of the Learjet NXT launched in Wichita on 30 October. The new business jet is intended to fall between the mid-size and super mid-size segments. By the time the programme was launched, the company had already received over 65 letters of intent from prospective customers. “This completely new jet developed with international partners is progressing well and we are on schedule to unveil the aircraft to the public in October 2008, in time to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the first flight of a Learjet,” said Pierre Beaudoin, President and Chief Operating Officer of Bombardier Aerospace in Wichita. He did not disclose the names of the partner companies involved on the programme, nor did he say who would supply the engines and in what thrust class they would fall.
According to initial calculations, the Learjet NXT will have a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.82 and a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,556km). The cabin will have a typical seat layout of eight seats and will have enough headroom to stand up in. It is also planned to include a wash room with toilet, as is typical of aircraft in this class. “The design of the aircraft was agreed with the customers. They told us what they need and what they want in a new mid-size business jet. The Learjet-NXT´s development programme will confirm Learjet´s position as market leader in aircraft innovation,” said Pierre Gabriel Cote, President of Bombardier Business Aircraft. “Market interest in this aircraft is strong and we have over 65 letters of intent that we intend to convert to firm orders over the next few months..”
Bombardier gained further additions to its order book in Dubai. Rizon Jet, an executive charter enterprise from Bahrain founded in January 2007, has ordered one Challenger 605 and one Global 5000. The Nigerian conglomerate, Dana Group, also placed an order for a Challenger 605 in Dubai, along with a Learjet 45 XR light jet.
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer boosted its order book in Dubai by a further 24 aircraft. Indian charter operator Invision Projects Pvt. Ltd. ordered 18 Phenom 100´s and two Phenom 300´s, the first delivery being scheduled for 2010. This company was founded at the beginning of the 1990s as a marketing company for antennae and in 2002 expanded into other areas. In February 2008 a Business Aviation subsidiary was founded, and it is this company which will operate the Phenoms which have been ordered.
Dana Airlines of Nigeria signed two purchase orders for Phenom 100´s and one for the Phenom 300, while Platinum Corporation of the United Arab Emirates ordered one Legacy 600, which is to be delivered next August.
Embraer took the opportunity of the Dubai Air Show to disclose the name of the launch customer for the Lineage 1000, the company´s biggest business jet: Aamer Abdul Jalil Al Fahim of Abu Dhabi Role will take delivery of the first Lineage 1000 in the second half of 2008.
Aerion Corporation of Reno, Nevada ushered in the possible start of a new era in Business Aviation in Dubai. The company, which is working on the design of a supersonic business jet, received its first letter of intent even though it is not yet clear who will build the aircraft and when. Aerion is currently looking hard for industrial partners to get involved in prototype and serial production of the $ 80 million, exclusive jet. On the sales side, Aerion cooperates outside the USA with the ExecuJet Group which also unveiled its first customer, Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Al Noaimi of Ajman Municipality and Planning. A total of 40 delivery slots are initially available. A letter of intent to purchase an Aerion jet costs $ 250,000, although this is refundable if the project does not materialise.