MidEast's wealthy eye Dreamliner as private jet

Boeing says about ten Dreamliner 787 aircraft are to be converted to private jets for VIP customers
By Shane McGinley
Tue 18 Dec 2012 09:37 AM

Around ten Dreamliner 787 aircraft have been ordered as private jets by wealthy individuals in the Middle East, with deliveries due to start next year, the head of Boeing’s business jet division said in an interview.

“We have sold a dozen of them [Dreamliner 787s] as private airplanes as VIP customers,” said Captain Steve Taylor, president, Boeing Business Jets. “The very first deliveries are about a year from now and there are several deliveries spread through 2014.”

Boeing said the Middle East represents around 30 percent of its orders for business jets, but confirmed that of the nine BBJ 747-8 larger aircraft that have been ordered to date by heads of state, all but one are for customers in the Middle East.

“The 30 percent of the market is if you look at our entire portfolio. The bigger airplanes tend to be even more dominant in this region… Similarly, with the 787, the majority will be here in the region,” Taylor said.

While not confirming how many of the 12 Dreamliner 787 business jets are heading to the Middle East, statistics indicate that as many as ten will be for Arab customers.

Confirmation of the orders comes as the CEO of Qatar Airways, the first commercial airline in the Middle East to take delivery of a Dreamliner 787 aircraft, criticised the US plane maker after it was forced to ground one of its newly received aircraft due to a faulty generator.

The aircraft, recently handed over by Boeing, has developed a problem similar to one that forced a United Continental aircraft to make an emergency landing, Bloomberg reported.

Qatar Airways’ third 787 suffered the failure on its delivery flight from the US, Akbar Al Baker, the Gulf carrier’s CEO told the news service.

He said the plane has been grounded since December 9 as Boeing sent spares and a recovery team.

“These problems are unacceptable because this aircraft has been flying for the last 14 months,” Al Baker told Bloomberg in an interview in London.

“They have to get their act together very fast because we at Qatar Airways will not accept any more defects,” he added as a 787 began its service to Heathrow from Doha on Thursday.

A United 787 was forced to land on December 4 following the failure of one of six generators.

Al Baker added: “Definitely we will demand compensation. We are not buying airplanes from them to put in a museum.”

Boeing said its technicians "would evaluate the findings in Qatar to understand the root cause of this issue and take the appropriate next steps".

Despite these setbacks with the 787, Taylor said the Middle East in general was proving to be a lucrative market for business jet sales.

"Despite the global economic downturn, the Middle East region remains a very strong market for both single-aisle and twin-aisle VIP airplanes," he said.

"Our customers want an aircraft capable of connecting virtually any two cities in the world nonstop," he added.

Two months ago, the first BBJ 777-200LR (longer range) for a head-of-state customer in the Middle East entered into service. With a range capability of more than 10,000 nautical miles (18,500 km), the BBJ 777-200LR is the longest range business jet in the world.

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