Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Battle for the Jets

Mike Ashley, the Sports Direct boss, has stolen bragging rights from Sir Philip Green, owner of Topshop and BHS, with a £20 million private jet. Mr Ashley, who has come in for stinging criticism since Sports Direct’s disastrous performance after floating on the Stock Exchange in March, has bought a Bombardier Global Express, one of the most luxurious models on the market. For £20 million, the reclusive 43-year old gets an ultra-long range private jet that can fly intercontinental distances - such as New York to Tokyo – without the need for refueling.

The surprise purchase comes as demand for private jets has taken off. For the first time, manufacturers are poised to deliver more than 1,000 aircraft in 12 months to wealthy customers around the world this year. Honeywell, the US conglomerate, last month predicted that global deliveries would hit 12,000 over the next decade, representing nearly $200 billion (£98 billion) of business far higher than its forecasts just two years ago. It is understood that more and more Chief Executives at companies across Britain are also making more use of private jets.

David Savile, Air Partner chief executive, said: “If I told you the names you wouldn’t recognise them. None of the seven feature on the Sunday Times Rich List. It is the next level down. Growth in this market at the moment is simply phenomenal. As customers get more used to hiring private jets from firms such as Air Partner or NetJets, the natural step is for them to buy one. One of the cheapest on the market, the six-seater Cessna Citation Mustang, costs £1.3 million.”

Yet both billionaires are trumped by Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea Football Club owner, who counts a modified Boeing 767, complete with two gyms, in his personal collection. Last month it was reported that he his upgraded by buying a $300 million (£150 million) Airbus A380 Superjumbo, a claim that his spokesman denied. (source: Timesonline)

A pivotal role in Nasa’s multibillion-dollar mission to build a lunar base and send a man to Mars has been won by a sorftware company based in Barrow-in-Fumess. 3SL has beaten giants such as IBM and Siemens to provide the software that will direct the design of the most ambitious space project yet – America’s Constellation programme.

The privately owned British company’s Cradle system will not venture beyond the Earth’s surface, but it will coordinate the design and manufacture of Orion, a new spacecraft that will replace the Space Shuttle and is charged with carrying a crew to the Moon by 2020. Cradle will also oversee the development of systems ranging from space suits to, eventually, “Mars habitation units”.

Mark Walker, the founder of 3SL, which has just 40 engineers, said. “This is a hugely significant win for a small company. It is important news, also, for Barrow-in-Furness, an area that desperately needs to have its profile raised as a centre for industry.”

The Constellation project, was given the green light three years ago by President Bush. It has been handed responsibility by Congress for maintaining “US preeminence in space” against a rivals such as Russia, China and India. It aims to make its first manned flight by 2015.

The British group, whose engineers are carrying out work for Nasa from a new office in Huntsville, Texas, is hoping to win further work beyond its current $7 million contract as Constellation moves forward. (source: Timesonline)

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