Russian plane maker Sukhoi unveiled the world's first private jet kitted out specifically for sports teams at the Farnborough air show on Tuesday, complete with physiotherapy equipment and areas for coaches to carry out game analysis.
The SportJet concept - which is based on an SSJ100 aircraft - was shown off, with a 12 meter full-scale cross section of the jet to be displayed at the Rio 2016 Olympics later this year in the hopes of securing orders.
Sukhoi's plane is a 100-seater jet split into four "zones" each with different equipment for teams to utilize.
The key features include:
"We do believe a market niche does exist in terms of an aircraft designed to carry a professional sports team," Evgeniy Andrachnikov, senior vice president of sales at Sukhoi told CNBC in an interview ahead of the launch.
"For the most part all the clubs around the globe never travel by regular flights, they charter private jets. They travel a lot over long distances. They are getting injured and most hate to fly," he added, explaining the rationale behind launching the jet.
Sukhoi estimates the value of the sports transport market to be $600 million and admits that the SportJet is a niche product.
After being on display at the Rio Olympics this summer, the SportJet will go into production in 2017 once it receives some orders and then will be delivered to customers in 2018.
Andrachnikov said the owners of major sports teams are an obvious first market. Other customers could be leagues such as the NBA. Initially Sukhoi will focus on the Russian market where it will look to sign a deal with the KHL - an ice hockey league that has 29 clubs competing from countries across Europe and Asia. The cross-continental travel gives a dedicated sports jet an obvious use case. Andrachnikov said the 2018 soccer World Cup in Russia could also give the SportJet a boost.
But beyond Russia, Sukhoi faces stiff competition. In the U.S. Delta Airlines has signed a deal with the NBA to use its Boeing 757 jets to charter teams around. In the U.K., players travel to Premier League soccer games by bus. Still, with major sporting tournaments on the horizon, it could give Sukhoi the market it needs.
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