Airbus ACJ320neo

Longer legs to deliver nonstop flights to more distant destinations, plus some of the most spacious VIP cabins available are the hallmarks of the ACJ320neo. Words: Alasdair Whyte

Airborne luxury aboard Acropolis Aviation’s ACJ320neo G-KELT. The UK VVIP charter operator received the first delivery of the model in 2019.

Airbus ACJ320neo

Longer legs to deliver nonstop flights to more distant destinations, plus some of the most spacious VIP cabins available are the hallmarks of the ACJ320neo. Words: Alasdair Whyte

Airborne luxury aboard Acropolis Aviation’s ACJ320neo G-KELT. The UK VVIP charter operator received the first delivery of the model in 2019.

BACK IN THE DAYS when you could meet up, in February 2016, Airbus, Lufthansa and Pratt & Whitney held a party at Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport to celebrate the delivery of the first Airbus A320neo. On the side of the aircraft the manufacturer had painted the words: ‘First to fly A320neo – Less noise. Less fuel. Less CO2.’ And it is easy to see why Airbus’ biggest customer was keen to get it flying.

Four years, later the first Airbus Corporate Jet version – the ACJ320neo – has been delivered to Acropolis Aviation. But while ACJ customers clearly care about less noise, fuel and the environment – the big selling point for the ACJ320neo is its improved range. It can fly 1,700 nautical miles further than the ACJ320ceo it replaces. (The ceo stands for current engine option, with the neo being new engine option).

The ACJ320neo can now fly more than 13 hours nonstop, with 25 passengers on board. It can easily make Moscow to Los Angeles or London to Beijing. With a maximum range of 6,000 nautical miles, the ACJ320neo can fly a similar distance to most business jets, but with more passengers.

Gulfstream’s G650ER (7,500 nm), new G700 (announced at 7,500 nautical miles but will probably fly further when delivered) and Bombardier’s Global 7500 (7,700 nautical miles) can fly further. But few customers ever fly more than 6,000nm. The ACJ320neo also gives you almost three times the cabin space. Something that makes a huge difference on longer flights.

“The new ACJ320neo gives us the means to deliver nonstop flights to even more of the world with one of the most spacious VIP cabins in the market,” says Andrea Zanetto, CEO, Comlux Aviation. Comlux clearly believes this, as it has ordered five ACJ320neos making it the largest buyer of the model. “With its new CFMI engines, sharklets and increased fuel capacity, the ACJ320neo brings the extra range that our VVIP clients seek – without compromising on baggage space.” These sharklets (or winglets) have another benefit: they also look cool.

The first delivery of the ACJ320neo was made to long-term ACJ client Acropolis Aviation in January 2019 – it originally ordered the aircraft in May 2005. Acropolis chose to have the interior for the aircraft designed by renowned Italian designer Alberto Pinto, with the interior fitted by AMAC Aerospace. The aircraft’s interior was completed in February 2020.

Welcome aboard luxury with wings: the main entrance to the G-KELT’s interior.

The master bedroom leads on to a luxury en-suite bathroom with a rectangular shower, the largest ever to be installed in an Airbus single-aisle aircraft.

“The aircraft took just over a year from start to finish. A number of new enhancements were introduced and Acropolis and designer Yves Pickardt was involved throughout the process,” said Acropolis Aviation CEO Jonathan Bousfield. “AMAC Aerospace has created something very special, which will set new standards of comfort and well-being within the VVIP charter market, fully utilising the cabin space.”

The cabin is the same size as the ACJceo it replaces but has other benefits including the latest connectivity. One of the biggest improvements is that the ACJneo has 15% lower cabin pressure of 6,400 feet when flying. You may not notice this, but should arrive at your destination more hydrated, less tired and generally feeling better.

The distinctive cabin interiors were overseen by designer Yves Pickardt from Alberto Pinto.

Your feast, from the kitchen galley, awaits. The elegant 19-seat cabin can accommodate sleeping for 17 guests during 13-hour flights.

Unlike most business jets, owners get to choose from two engine options: Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G-JM geared turbofan or CFM International’s LEAP-1A engine (produced by an extremely successful joint venture between GE and France’s Safran). So far, all the announced engine orders have been for CFM International engines. But as airlines have the same choice – and are evenly split between the two – finding support for either engine option should be easy wherever you are in the world. You can pretty much find an engineer for both aircraft at any major airport in the world.

Although they share a lot in common, it is important to stress that Airbus Corporate Jets are different to the aircraft that airlines operate – particularly extra fuel tanks that give them greater range. Airlines may be grounding aircraft but few of these are likely to be converted into Airbus Corporate Jets, so it should not hit the smaller ACJ market. In the past 10 years, ACJ and Boeing Business Jets have held values much better than most business jets. Comlux’s Zanetto believes this will continue: “With the ACJ320neo, aircraft owners benefit from a well-protected asset value in the long-term. This is key criteria while making the choice of purchasing a private jet, especially in the current downturn.”

As with the Lufthansa delivery, Airbus could have written ‘Less fuel. Less CO2. Less depreciation’ on the side of the Acropolis ACJ320neo (which was meant to be exhibited at EBACE 2020). But ACJ buyers are probably more attracted to more. More range. More space. More value. ■

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Alasdair Whyte, Editor-in-chief, Corporate Jet Investor

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Alasdair Whyte, Editor-in-chief, Corporate Jet Investor