Flight Options prepares for Phenom 300s0

 - July 28, 2009, 11:13 AM

With certification of Embraer’s Phenom 300 expected before year-end, Flight Options released more details about its fractional ownership program for the aircraft in June. According to CEO Mike Silvestro, the Cleveland-based fractional, which placed a nearly $1 billion order in 2007 for 100 of the seven-passenger, small-cabin light jet, has already sold out shares in the two aircraft it expects to receive this year, despite or perhaps even due to the dire economy.

“There’s no doubt that the last seven, eight, nine months have been a challenging time for the world and for general aviation, but I think our timing is very good,” Silvestro told AIN. “To ask customers to buy fractional shares today, the offering needs to be as rock solid as possible. We feel this airplane will redefine the super-light category [so much so] that I think it’s a great time to be out there fractionally.” The Phenom 300’s cabin volume of 325 cu ft puts it at the top of the small-cabin, light jet class.

Flight Options has had success operating Embraer’s Legacy 600, which the company says certainly influenced the decision to purchase its smaller sibling.

One reason for Silvestro’s enthusiasm is the economical operating costs promised by the new aircraft. “Our operating rates are about 20 percent less than our competitors’ in the same category of aircraft, so we are going out–based upon current fuel prices–at approximately $3,600 an hour all-in, including the monthly management fee component,” he said. “That compares to about $4,400 to $4,500 on a CJ3, $4,800 on a Learjet 40, and $4,600 on an Encore, so you’re talking about at least $800 to $1,000 an hour less [than other] airplanes in its class.” Those hourly charges are in addition to Flight Options Phenom 300’s 6.25 percent (50-hour) ownership share purchase price of $525,000.

While the majority of customers interested in the 300 are private owners with needs in the 50-to-100-hour range, the company reports it has received a surprising amount of interest from people seeking larger shares, and is currently working on such deals with about a dozen clients. Flight Options is now accepting non-refundable $25,000 deposits.

“What has happened over the years is that a lot of customers end up choosing a midsize airplane because of its range and they want a nonstop mission,” Silvestro said. “This airplane has a 2,000-nautical mile range, so we are going to get a lot of people who want to be right in the sweet spot to take [for example] a Boston-to-Miami run with six people. A lot of light jets won’t do that nonstop, but this one will.”

That flexibility could even draw interest from the embattled corporate sector, which traditionally has leaned toward larger aircraft. “What I anticipate is that the corporate market will make a major shift, if it is going to continue to fly privately,” Silvestro explained. “The way that you justify the cost is to use an aircraft that actually does the missions for the operating range required.

Customers who purchase Phenom 300 shares will also have access to the rest
of Flight Options’ fleet through its interchange program. With upgrade costs based on a formula, they will be able to fly the company’s Hawker 400XP and 800XP, Cessna Citation X and Legacy 600.

Meanwhile, Flight Options is gearing up for the delivery of its first two Phenom 300s this year. “Our pilot management, safety, maintenance and logistics departments have been preparing for the arrival of the Phenom 300 for more than a year now,” said Silvestro. This fall, Flight Options is planning a multi-city tour with a Phenom 300 fuselage mock-up to spark sales for the 100 aircraft it is scheduled to receive over the next decade. The company also possesses options for an additional 50 Phenom 300s.