Israel Aircraft Industries to unveil new executive jet

JERUSALEM — Ten years after it was forced to abandon the Lavi, Israel Aircraft Industries will unveil a new executive jet, which the state company hopes will revolutionize the industry.

Unlike the Lavi, the Galaxy business jet is not a warplane. For IAI, it marks a major investment in a civilian project.

"We have a new baby," IAI president Moshe Keret said at a news conference last week to announce the Galaxy. "It's a big and very beautiful baby. Nothing gives us greater satisfaction than to see a new aircraft roll off an assembly line here."

The executive jet can seat between eight and 19 passengers, depending on the configuration of the interior. With a range of 3,620 nautical miles, the Galaxy can fly non-stop from Paris to New York. Its cruising speed is 871 kilometers per hour.

The Galaxy, a $150 million investment in design and production, is a joint venture between IAI and the Hyatt Corp., the hotel chain owned by the Chicago-based Pritzker Group. The plane will be marketed and maintained by Galaxy Aerospace Corp., based in Ft. Worth.

"In essence, it's a marriage of U.S. capital and marketing expertise and Israeli human and technical resources," Galaxy president Brian Barents said.

The Galaxy project was begun in 1992 and was plagued by delays until the Hyatt Corp. entered the partnership and provided the funding and U.S. management that IAI says will ensure sales of both Galaxy as well as the Astra SPX mid-sized executive jet, which has been in operation for about a decade.

Barents said Galaxy aims to be a leader in the mid- and large-executive jet field. He said the average age of the 2,600 mid-sized business jets in operation today is 17, meaning that many will be replaced in the coming years.

"We start on a strong financial footing," Barents said. "We have a strong balance sheet and strong sales. Our corporate strategy is to be a market leader in all the markets we serve."