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February 29, 2024
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Corporate jets tend to have a look with lots of dark brown shiny wood finishing and duo-tone colors. That seems to be what customers like and want to. Airbus thinks they might be in for something different and disruptive, with more vibrant colors. That’s why Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) has now come up with exactly that, announcing a partnership on the ACJ TwoTwenty with French graffiti-artist Cyril Kongo. ACJ TwoTwenty goes for something different.

Airbus invited AirInsight to the media launch on September 23 at the Monaco Yacht Show (MYS), which is held this week. While the focus of potential customers will be on the most luxurious of yachts and boats in the Monaco harbor, some will use the occasion to inform about a new corporate jet as well. That’s why ACJ had a prominent presence on the rooftop of the Monaco Yacht Club headquarters.

The ACJ TwoTwenty has been launched only in October 2020 as the latest member of the ACJ family, which includes the ACJ319, ACJ320, ACJ330, and ACJ350. Based on the A220-100, the TwoTwenty is aiming for the extra-large business jet market where Gulfstream, Dassault, and Bombardier have been dominant so far. Assembly of the first TwoTwenty will be completed in December when Comlux will take care of interior outfitting. This should be ready around mid-2022. The type, which has a range of 10.400 kilometers (5.650 nautical miles) has six confirmed orders. Airbus says the TwoTwenty is offered for around $75 million.

The ACJ TwoTwenty with modern lounge cabin: brown and white dominate. (Airbus)

The bespoke interior with avant-garde, timeless, and quintessence ambiances shown in the TwoTwenty brochure looks modern and stylish indeed, but as said, mostly features white, brown, and beige as the leading colors. Bring on Cyril Phan, who took on the name Cyril Kongo and since 1989 has established himself as a graffiti and street art artist. His work has been on the streets but in 2008, Kongo started working with the luxury industry like Richard Mille, Chanel, La Cornue. In 2019, Kongo had his first exhibition at Grand Arche.

Kongo (52) came into contact with Airbus ACJ some three years ago. “It is important for us to innovate and move the boundaries. Cyril is the same in his area. The first time I heard of him, I said: ‘I want something different than white and brown”, says ACJ President Benoit Defforge, who is in the middle of the main picture with Kongo on the left and Head of ACJ Creative Design and Concepts, Silvain Mariat on the right. “Cyril is bringing something new to this market, something avant-gardist, contemporary art, moving the boundaries.” Getting it right has taken some eight months of discussions.

Computer animation of the Cyril Kongo-design interior on the ACJ TwoTwenty. (Airbus)

The result is an interior of six areas with white and light grey as the dominant themes, supported by carbon fiber themes. What the Kongo design really makes stand out are the ‘spicy’ colors and graffiti fabrics that he has applied to the upholstery and furniture like tables, seats, seat cushions, and art. “I use my graphic vocabulary to create bridges. I want to bring happiness, talk about humanity, and traveling. Colors are about life. I am using a lot of white and mix it with others. But you can’t put in too much color, otherwise, it is too heavy. I want to make something comfortable and at the same time chique and at the same time unique”, the artist explained. It is his first-ever work for a business jet manufacturer. “I am doing things out of my comfort zone. We have been discussing a lot about it, but it is a great experience.”

So far, the Kongo design has been met on social media with mixed reactions. Some think it is great and courageous, others say it is over the top. While the animations published by Airbus might seem extravagant, the interior looks well-integrated when you see it through 3D glasses that Airbus uses to show customers the numerous cabin options and that the author used as well. While white and grey dominate, the vibrant colors bring something extra that will certainly aspire to some customers. As was noted during the press conference, this design should add value to an ACJ TwoTwenty and give Cyril Kongo extra exposure.

The cabin features are mostly hand-made, which Kongo will do in his own studio in Paris (“In my own universe”). There is no reason for him to go often to where the aircraft will be outfitted. “I create the paintings and all the design by my studio. It is better for me to work there and then send it to Toulouse. I don’t have to be there every time,” Kongo says. Working on a kind of industrial basis on a product isn’t blocking his creativity, he adds. “I have done various projects before. I am never blocked, in fact, each project is independent and is about creativity.”

The ACJ TwoTwenty is Cyril Kongo’s first project in aviation. (Richard Schuurman)

All Cyril Kongo ACJ TwoTwenties will be different from each other as customers will have individual requirements. Most likely, that will become visible on the outside as well. Asked if the aircraft will also have a Kongo tail design in vibrant colors, Delforge only said: “That’s a secret! You will have to wait for that.” We take that for a ‘yes’.

Update October 13:
During the NBAA in Las Vegas, Airbus and Comlux revealed the exterior of the Kongo ACJ TwoTwenty. The tail design is indeed… different.

In a separate Premium story, we discuss the ACJ market with the Head of Marketing, Stan Shparberg. You can find it here. 

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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