COMLUX’S DRAMATIC DUBAI DEBUT
Following the exciting news that Comlux is completing and operating the first-ever Airbus ACJ TwoTwenty for new client Five Group, Jill Stockbridge spoke to Richard Gaona, Founder and CEO about the new developments.
Comlux made its debut as an exhibitor at the Dubai Airshow in November, and brought news and excitement to the business aviation section of the show, beginning with the revealing of the sale of the first-ever ACJTwoTwenty.
Richard Gaona, Founder and CEO, shared the lead up to the announcement: “We realised during the pandemic that people will not travel the way they did before. They will be travelling more with friends they know and in a safer environment. So we decided to propose an aircraft not to individuals flying one-by-one, but to propose an aircraft to a luxury travel group, who could organise 20 people on a plane, all paying the price of a first-class ticket, but getting an exclusive private jet. So we spoke to several hotels and we entered a deal with the Five Group from Dubai. I got in touch with Kabir Mulchandani, the Founder and Chairman of Five. He is a really successful person and a real entrepreneur. Together we are developing a new market segment.
“Comlux will remain the operator, through our AOC in Malta. We will begin work on the green aircraft in January 2022 at our completion centre in Indiana,” he added.
The signing: His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airlines and Group and Chairman of Dubai Airports; (seated) Richard Gaona, Found and CEO Comlux (left) and HE Khalifa Al Zaffin, Executive Chairman of Dubai Aviation Corporation at the signing for the new facility in DWC.
The Five ACJ TwoTwenty, registered as 9H-FIVE (Nine-Hotel-Five) will enter into service in early 2023, and will be based at Dubai World Central. It will be completed in the Avant Guarde cabin interior style option, and will feature 16 seats, an eight-seater dining table, a master suite with a king-sized bed and shower, electro-chromatic window shades, full LED lighting, a fully equipped kitchen, non-stop streaming high-speed connectivity and two ultra-large 55 inch screens. This is a high-flying party, powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, that can last up to 12 hours non-stop with a full crew on board, blending award-winning cuisine from the hotels’ home-grown restaurants with music from Five’s famed in-house DJs.
The deal was announced at a glittering event at the Five Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah, during the airshow, hosted by senior management from Five Group and Airbus. Kabir Mulchandani, Founder and Chairman, Five, said: “I am extremely pleased with the purchase of the ACJ TwoTwenty. It is a key milestone in the development of FIVE’s bouquet of offerings to our discerning global clientele. 9H-FIVE will showcase the best aspects of both private and commercial aviation with one distinctive offering – by fusing together the Best in Class Bizjet and FIVE’s Best in Class Hospitality and Entertainment that will result in an incomparable globally disrupting aircraft, which will provide guests with unparalleled space, range, reliability and experience. Thanks to Comlux’s know-how in engineering VIP interiors and customised air travel, FIVE can seamlessly curate an exclusive and luxurious lifestyle experience both on the ground – and in the air.”
It is a further step into the buoyant business aviation market in Dubai.
Gaona added: “This aircraft number one was called by us ‘the Perfect One’. It is the demonstrator aircraft, and when you build a demonstrator you always try to ensure that it is the very best possible in the cabin. Although we have sold this aircraft to Five, we will also use it for demonstrations. The image of Five is all about youth and party, and they will have the music and interior on board to provide that ambiance.”
Growth in the region
It is not just about the one aircraft for Comlux, but it is a further step into the buoyant business aviation market in Dubai.
Gaona explained: “Comlux has a presence in Dubai, with an office in the VIP Terminal, which is mainly a commercial office. We meet clients from time to time as they arrive and leave the airport and we have some aircraft in the region. But Dubai has become one of the main places for the region, and even for clients from Europe. A lot of business is now being done in Dubai, so we have decided to build a facility at DWC in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub, for doing line maintenance, light refurbishments and to be a service centre for ACJ, BBJs and 220s.”
The facility will be equipped to simultaneously accommodate two ACJ and BBJ family aircraft types, including the ACJ TwoTwenty. Aiming to starting construction in February, the hangar should be fully operational by mid-2023, and Comlux will provide its Middle East customers with EASA Part 145- and UAE Part 145-approved maintenance services and cabin upgrade, as well as refurbishment quality, works on their VIP aircraft.
Gaona added: “We will break ground in February, and the lead time should be around 12 months, but we want to create a green facility, so with all the authorisations it may be 18 months from when we give the go-ahead. From that moment we will be able to serve our fleet in the region.”
We are a partner with Airbus on this project. We are investing in the development of the cabin. So, we are committed to make this project a success.
Future of the ACJTwoTwenty
In a market that is crying out for instant inventory, many clients are not prepared for the long wait for a new aircraft, with the normal time taken for design, completion and delivery. Gaona feels that this is where the ACJTwoTwenty has an advantage, with the limited choice of customisable interiors able to speed up the completion process.
He said: “The first green aircraft will arrive in a month, with a 12-month completion time. The second one arrives six months later, and they are both sold. That’s why I am right now in discussion with Airbus to buy more aircraft. I have almost closed a deal for ACJTwoTWenty number three, I just have to get the aircraft.
“We are a partner with Airbus on this project. We are investing in the development of the cabin. So, we are committed to make this project a success. The first 15 cabins will be done in the US in Indiana. The challenge we face is that we launched during Covid, but customer relations are everything and we need to meet face-to-face. You cannot sell an aircraft on Zoom. Also, we did not have an aircraft to show.
“Now we have an aircraft to show, from January people can come to Indiana; they can touch the product; the engineering is done; the completion will go very fast. For the first time there is an aircraft that is offering a 12-hour range, the best cabin comfort, and for the price of a Global or Gulfstream, an aircraft that is lower maintenance and operating cost,” he added.
With this sort of support, we may soon see more ACJ TwoTwentys in the skies above Dubai.