Bombardier Flexjet announced its selection as fractional provider to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) at a press conference yesterday and introduced a member of the Flexjet/NASA oversight committee, Gene Cernan, Apollo 17 astronaut and the last man to walk on the moon.
The program, which marks the first time the U.S. government has used fractional aircraft ownership, was commissioned by Congress and will provide a two-year test for NASA to evaluate the potential that fractional ownership might provide in terms of operational flexibility and cost savings. The agency secured a one-half share of a Learjet 31A and one-sixteenth share of a Learjet 60 that equates to about 450 flight hours per year.
NASA conducted a competitive review among the major fractional providers before selecting Flexjet. The agency reviewed quality and reliability of aircraft, crew hiring and training, maintenance programs, flight operations and scheduling systems, as well as safety records and overall value.
“My role was to review and provide input to develop a comprehensive program that met all the stringent requirements of operation and security,” Cernan explained. “In future I will continue participation in periodic review processes and ensure that it’s successful for both NASA and Bombardier.”
As part of his participation, Cernan visited Bombardier factories and training facilities in the U.S. and Canada, flew every aircraft model in the Bombardier fleet and gained a Learjet type rating.
The test program will provide NASA with around-the-clock jet service, and Flexjet will provide a dedicated desk and team. After being questioned about the future of the partnership, Cernan speculated that after the trial period is over, the program may well be rolled over into a longer-term commitment, and that other government agencies may possibly be involved.
Most of the NASA/Flexjet operations will be transport from Washington Reagan Airport to Houston or to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Also appearing at the press conference were two notable Flexjet shareholders representing the company’s recent appointment as “Official Private Aviation Solutions Provider for the PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour.”
Former NASA research scientist, author and golf authority Dave Pelz and 12-time PGA major winner and 2001 British Open champion David Duval spoke on their relationship with Flexjet. President Clifford Dickman also announced that the company had received its fourth consecutive Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) Diamond Award, the FAA’s highest honor for a company’s commitment to training.
To qualify for the award, at least a quarter of a company’s maintenance technicians must pass specialized, continuous training in aircraft systems, regulations and FAA rules over a 12-month period. More than 70 percent of Flexjet’s technicians completed the program during the past year.
In addition, the company received AS1900 certification, the aerospace version of the ISO 9000 international standard.
Dickman added that Flexjet had also received excellent marks in a 2002 audit conducted by the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), an objective appraisal of policies, procedures and practices with regard to safety and operating efficiencies.