Summer 2019

Advantage: neo

Airbus Corporate Jets recently flew the first example of its ACJ319neo. The aircraft is scheduled for delivery to K5 Aviation, whose CEO and Chief Pilot, Erik Scheidt, joined an Airbus crew to complete a record-breaking endurance test in the jet

On 24 April 2019 Airbus Corporate Jets took another important step into the future, with the one-hour 55-minute first flight of its ACJ319neo. The aircraft subsequently entered a short flight test programme to verify its specific corporate jet features compared to those of the A319neo airliner. These include extra fuel tanks in its cargo hold, which enable intercontinental range.

Germany’s K5 Aviation will operate this first aircraft after outfitting with a VVIP cabin by Fokker Techniek in the Netherlands. K5’s CEO and Chief Pilot Erik Scheidt was among the aircraft’s crew on 26 April, for a long-endurance test flight that became the lengthiest A320 Family flight in Airbus history.

At 16 hours 10 minutes, the mission took the jet from Toulouse to northern Greenland and back, including a simulated diversion under 180 min ETOPS rules, for which the A320 airliner family is already certificated.

Range is particularly important to K5, as Scheidt explains: “The ACJ319neo will offer unmatched range for this type of aircraft. In addition to being able to connect even more city pairs directly, including US East Coast locations to the Middle East, the aircraft features a lower cabin altitude and an even quieter cabin. It has the same five-tank configuration as we have on two of our ACJ319ceo aircraft. Our customers typically come to us because they want the range. And because of our beautiful interiors and excellent service, of course…

“The market often perceives incorrectly that the ACJ319neo doesn’t compete with conventional ultra-long range business jets in terms of range. In fact, it achieves the same range and offers three times more cabin space at the same operating cost.”

Family familiarity

K5 Aviation already has three popular ACJ319ceo and one ACJ318 aircraft in its fleet. Why add the neo? “It demonstrates how satisfied we are with the product, Scheidt says. “There are more than 9,000 A320 Family aircraft operating worldwide and this ensures it is not only an extremely reliable aircraft, but also easy to operate in terms of maintenance and pilot training. These synergies mean the operating costs are approximately the same as those of a conventional business jet, but with significantly less downtime for maintenance.”

That said, in terms of basic airframe and engine, the ACJ319neo is essentially similar to the A319neo airliner, which follows a maintenance schedule designed for a very different type of operation. How does that reflect on K5’s mission? “The maintenance is exactly the same. The only difference to an airliner is that we may never reach the hourly limitations, only calendar items, making maintenance even easier to plan. We’re also able to take the aircraft to the large airline maintenance centres – they know the aircraft better than anyone and they’re more competitive in terms of price and downtime.”

And what about crewing? How do the requirements of the ACJ319neo’s large cabin compare to those of a similarly-ranged conventional bizjet? “There’s no difference. We can operate with two pilots and one flight attendant, but on charters we always add a second flight attendant to serve the higher passenger count and larger cabin. Also, the charter market expects two flight attendants on these aircraft, although one is actually sufficient for up to seven passengers.”

Fokker Techniek

K5 has chosen Fokker Techniek, a GKN Aerospace company, to complete the neo – the aircraft’s cabin is currently empty, or ‘green’. The Dutch outfit traces its origins directly back to the original Fokker of 1912, but is perhaps not the most obvious provider for a large-cabin completion. In fact, Scheidt notes: “This is our third completion with Fokker Techniek. We were very satisfied with Fokker in the past and that’s what made us come back.

“From its historic activity, Fokker Techniek has the knowledge of an OEM, which is a huge asset in the construction of complex VVIP cabins. The previous two aircraft they completed for us were delivered on time and on budget, with outstanding quality. “We have no doubt they will perform to the same standards on the ACJ319neo. We’ve now been operating one of our Fokker-completed aircraft for 11 years and the cabin still performs as it did on day one.

“The ACJ319neo’s cabin layout will be similar to that of an ACJ319ceo we already have in service. As with that aircraft, we’ll install the Gogo 2Ku internet system. The latest generation AlsterAero system will provide the CMS/IFE, including 4K screens, Apple AirPlay streaming, content download from the cloud, 4G connection on the ground, the newest generation of Airshow and more.”

Fokker Techniek is expected to take delivery in the last week of June, with charter operations beginning in April 2020. What types of charter does K5 see its ACJs attracting? “We literally see everything, from one-way journeys, through round trips, to multi-destination missions over longer periods. The profiles are similar to those of conventional private jets and we have approximately the same field performance, being limited at only a small number of airports due to the ACJ’s higher weight. But we typically find suitable solutions nearby for these few airports.”

Erik Scheidt is an active, enthusiastic pilot and it’s no surprise he joined Airbus for the record-breaking trial. Widely experienced, he came away from the neo deeply impressed. “At K5 we have a passion for our aircraft and every new jet is like a new baby in our growing family. It was very emotional for me to fly this new ‘baby’ for the first time. It performed perfectly. I enjoyed every minute aboard this beautiful aircraft and I’m looking forward to sharing that experience with our customers.”