Per-seat, on-demand carrier DayJet on September 5 received its Part 135 air charter certificate to operate its fleet of 12 Eclipse 500 very light jets. The company began a gradual rollout of its service two weeks later from “DayPorts” in the Florida cities of Boca Raton, Gainesville, Lakeland, Pensacola and Tallahassee. DayJet currently has 190 employees, approximately 30 of whom are pilots, according to CFO John Staten.
“We’re going to measure the launch through the end of this month,” he said.
Over the past year, DayJet has raised $190 million to finance operations and the continued acquisition of Eclipse jets. The new funding brings starting capital to approximately $208 million. Staten said plans call for the company to have 30 to 40 aircraft on line by year-end and 200 operating by the end of next year. He said each aircraft would require a staffing level of approximately 4.5 pilots and that eventually “pilots and other flight professionals” would constitute 75 percent of the company’s workforce. Staten said the airplanes received thus far are clear to operate without restriction now that Eclipse has resolved a pitot-static system problem.
The CFO said DayJet plans to expand its network of DayPorts throughout the southeastern U.S. next year. The company previously announced that it could be flying to as many as 40 destinations within the region by that time in an area that includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Staten hinted that DayJet might eventually expand operations to other regions and even other countries. “The transportability of our business model is not confined to the Southeast,” he said.
A more tangible clue of DayJet’s larger ambitions came earlier this year, when the company hired former NASA chief strategist Dr. Bruce Holmes as director of air systems research. Before his retirement from the agency, Holmes served as the chief strategist at NASA’s Langley Research Center. He is widely regarded as the driving force behind a variety of government-sponsored new technology initiatives including the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), the NASA Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (Agate) Alliance and the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) Project. At the time of his hiring, DayJet said Holmes’ role was to “work with federal and state agencies to deploy next-generation technologies that will expand the number of small airports DayJet can utilize.” But Staten hinted that Holmes’ role in DayJet could be more substantial. “Bruce’s role is pretty broad,” he said.
Local response to DayJet has been positive, Staten said, telling NBAA Convention News that as of early this month, 250 companies (based mainly in Florida) had enrolled 1,000 travelers. DayJet charges an annual fee of $250 per traveler to access its network. Trips will typically bill at $1 to $4 per mile per passenger depending on the flexibility of traveler schedules. As a general rule, the wider the passenger’s departure time window, the lower the price. All travelers will be given flight times the night before their flights.