By Rebecca Rayko, AWN Editor
A year ago Lufthansa Technik left the NBAA show with a signed LOI for completion work on the first Boeing Business Jet. This year the company arrived with the first finished BBJ, delivered and flown into the show by owner Michael Chowdry, the cargo tycoon and majority owner of Atlas Air.
The delivery marks the launch of Lufthansa Technik's XXL Class program, a VIP configured aircraft interior based on either the BBJ or the Airbus A319 Corporate Jetliner (ACJ). The XXL program goes beyond interior work to include design, maintenance, even fueling and catering in order to supply customers with a fully integrated package, says Wolfgang Mayrhuber, chairman of Lufthansa Technik.
The first XXL configured BBJ was flown from Lufthansa Technik's facilities in Hamburg to Atlanta at the start of the NBAA show with Chowdry and Mayrhuber on board.
For XXL Class customers, Lufthansa Technik opened a special VIP center at the Lufthansa base in Hamburg in mid September. With cabin mockups of Boeing 737-700 BBJs and A319 ACJs, customers are given a real-world preview of their customized cabin interiors.
A BBJ belonging to Swiss carrier PrivatAir is currently being customized at the center with delivery of the completed aircraft scheduled for January 2000. That same month, the first ACJ will be delivered to the Italian government.
Lufthansa Technik has extensive experience customizing aircraft for governments and industrial customers, Mayrhuber says.
"Lufthansa was the first customer for this Airbus narrowbody, and we are servicing more than 100 aircraft of this type in our customers' fleets," he says of the A319. "For over 40 years we have been a reliable partner to governments and crowned heads of states around the globe."
It was this that helped persuade the Italian government to entrust the equipping of its ACJ to Lufthansa Technik, he said.
Lufthansa Technik draws from its experience as one of the world's leading providers of MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) services plus its many years of experience with the flight operations of Deutsche Lufthansa.
When Lufthansa Technik was founded as an independent company five years ago, industry conditions were anything but ideal. MRO business for aircraft, engines and components was characterized by large overcapacities and intense competition.
Price alone was the decisive factor for many companies, which was a severe handicap for a company based in a high-wage country like Germany. As the long-time MRO arm of Deutsche Lufthansa, Lufthansa Technik had technical competence but little actual market experience.
Today the company boasts it is number one in the world's MRO market with 10% marketshare. Its customers include more than 240 airlines and other commercial aircraft operators. Turnover in 1998 exceeded $2.5 billion.
Lufthansa Technik entered the business aviation market with the formation of Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services in Berlin. LBAS offers Learjet, Challenger and Global Express corporate jet operators technical servicing of airline quality.
Lufthansa Technik then began to bridge the servicing of traditional business aircraft and the conversion of standard commercial aircraft with the XXL Class. The company projects that over the next 10 years, there will be a need for some 200 new aircraft of this type. Lufthansa Technik is one of four companies worldwide to do completions of the BBJ.
The XXL Class provides a tool for the future, Mayrhuber says.
"Customers have to, not can, afford it to assure their presence to do business on a worldwide basis," he says. "Comfort is no longer a luxury, but a necessity."
On Tuesday, Lufthansa Technik signed an agreement with DaimlerChrysler Aviation for technical support services on seven business aircraft, including two Challenger 604s, tow Gulfstream Vs and the ACJ.
DaimlerChrysler will be taking delivery of the new ACJ in December. The ACJ will be used to shuttle DaimlerChrysler employees from the Stuttgart airport to the Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan five times a week.
DaimlerChrysler Aviation president Frank Rosler, on hand to sign the agreement, said the ACJ will operate as scheduled service while the other bizjets will operate on demand.
The contract includes maintenance management and planned MRO services in addition to engineering tasks and personnel support on request.