Comlux strengthens its offers with a new technical support unit | In depth

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Business aviation group Comlux is at EBACE with another division under its wing. Comlux Tech, the Swiss company’s latest sub-brand, offers a range of aftermarket services, including cockpit and cabin upgrades, base maintenance, pre-purchase aircraft inspections and aircrew supply, and complements Comlux’s existing business – aircraft management and charter, completions and transactions – says Managing Director Richard Gaona.

While Comlux has a long history of maintaining, repairing and overhauling its Comlux Completion unit in Indianapolis, the company lacks the infrastructure to market it to its global customer base, many of whom are based in Europe, the United States. Middle East and Asia. To address this, Comlux announced at the Dubai Airshow in November that it would open a maintenance and refurbishment hangar – with space for two Airbus ACJs or Boeing BBJs – at the city’s Al Maktoum Airport in late 2023. .

The hangar, which will begin work this year, will include a number of environmental features, including rooftop solar panels that will provide half the power needed for air conditioning. It will also include offices and a showroom with visual representations of various Comlux interiors.

The Dubai site will also serve as the base for an Airbus ACJ TwoTwenty that Comlux will manage for luxury hotel operator Five. Comlux is seeking maintenance approval for the facility from Airbus and UAE authorities. The company was the variant’s launch customer and says it has customers for two more ACJ TwoTwenty jets it ordered when the variant launched in October 2020. Gaona says he plans to order more.

Five’s ACJTwoTwenty is nearing completion at Comlux Completion. Comlux took delivery of the plane – a VIP version of the A220-100, which started life as the Bombardier CSeries – late last year and it will enter service with Five in early 2023. The ACJTwoTwenty is intended to compete with large-cabin aircraft offerings from Bombardier, Dassault and Gulfstream and can carry 18 passengers for 12.5 hours non-stop.

The Zurich company Comlux has concluded an agreement with Airbus to equip the first 15 ACJ TwoTwenty cabins in Indianapolis. The second plane is due to arrive there in October this year, with the next number three next April. After the first 15 examples, owners will have the choice between Comlux Completion and the Airbus equipment factory in France.

Comlux Tech will be led by parent company COO Andrea Zanetto, with Gaona stating the aim is to “further develop the synergies between Comlux Aviation’s operations, Comlux Transaction’s expertise and know-how of Comlux Completion in the engineering and craftsmanship of VIP cabins”. He tells FlightGlobal: “We already had a lot of these skills, and Comlux Tech brings them together. Our plans are to grow this business.

Comlux is unique in the world of business aviation charter in that it specializes in airliner-derived jet aircraft, with governments among its primary clients. Although its managed fleet of 22 aircraft includes Bombardier Challengers, an Embraer Praetor 600 and a Pilatus PC-24, most of its conventional business jet types are used exclusively or primarily by their owners. Its charter fleet includes a Boeing 777-200LR, 787-8 and 767-200ER, as well as two ACJ319s and an ACJ318.

For such a large operator, the business model is also atypical in that it does not envisage holding long-term assets. It frequently purchases aircraft with the intention of reselling them to new owners. “I don’t own any planes except the ones I buy to measure,” says Gaona, a former Airbus executive who set up Comlux 15 years ago. “My goal is not to own an airplane. Even though I take the risk of ordering aircraft, I have never ended up with an aircraft delivered for which I have no customer.

The company’s global footprint and ability to cater to different markets also gives it an edge, says Gaona. Its 777s and 787s are based in the USA, and its 767s in Dubai. One of its 737s, based in London, is equipped with an all-executive layout and is popular with sports teams and traveling entertainers. His ACJ318 has his home in Clark in the Philippines. “A lot of customers aren’t willing to pay for empty repositioning flights, so having planes at the gate is an advantage,” says Gaona.

Covid-19 travel restrictions in much of the world had a far greater impact on Comlux’s charter business in the first half of 2021 than on the more resilient small business jet market, Gaona says. However, after July 2021, the lifting of many border closures caused demand for larger planes to “explode”, and the second half of the year was as strong as the equivalent pre-pandemic period, he says. The first quarter of 2022 continued this trend.

Comlux presents an ACJ318 which is for sale on static display. However, Gaona plans to display an ACJ TwoTwenty at EBACE 2023. There is even an outside chance that the first aircraft will make a brief appearance at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Orlando in October.

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