With the official acknowledgement by NetJets that it will buy up to 275 Challenger 350s (100 firm, 175 on options), the Columbus, Ohio-based fractional share company becomes the worldwide launch partner for the new super-midsize jet, a distinction NetJets chairman and CEO Jordan Hansell all too happily embraced here in Geneva. Previously, although the order had been announced in June 2012, it was billed as being only for “Challenger 300-series jets.”
Speaking with AIN yesterday inside one the company’s Bombardier Global 6000s on the EBACE static display, Hansell explained that NetJets played a significant role in the new airplane’s design. Some of the new features, he said, will become universal and others specific to the NetJets Challenger 350s.
NetJets decided on the 350 following discussions with several customers who ranked the Challenger 300 as the best in its class, explained Hansell. “It has the best range, a wider cabin and creature comforts that they thought exceeded what was otherwise available,” he said. “So when Bombardier said we’re going to take that plane and improve upon it, that was very interesting to us. Furthermore, Bombardier has demonstrated that they’re good to work with for somebody like us, with our size and the fleet that we operate. They were willing to be flexible in terms of the design and they were flexible from a maintenance perspective.”
Hansell also noted Bombardier’s appreciation of NetJets’s fleet concept, particularly as it relates to parts availability and replacement. In most cases, he explained, an operator can’t simply replace a damaged table, for example, but must remove the part and repair or refinish it, a process that takes a lot of time. Bombardier carries an inventory of such parts, allowing NetJets to replace them in a faster, more efficient manner. “It’s the same high quality, and same fit and finish, but it allows us to operate [the airplanes] as a fleet,” said Hansell.
NetJets has also has a firm order for 50 Embraer Phenom 300s, all of which appear headed to the U.S., although Hansell didn’t rule out the possibility of some going to Europe. Having taken delivery of the first airplane on May 1 in Melbourne, Florida, NetJets expects delivery of some two airplanes per month.
On the other end of the size spectrum, NetJets’s flagship Bombardier Global 6000s occupy territory in both Europe and the U.S., but in a somewhat higher concentration across the Pond, where the economic recovery–and the business jet market historically–has proved more robust. It harbors no plans to place the Global 5000 into the European fleet, however.
In emerging markets–most notably in China–NetJets continues to work with authorities to help open what many believe will become a giant market for business jets. One of the top hurdles, however, remains a lack of infrastructure in the People’s Republic of China. Hansell reported that NetJets plans to open a new division in China under which owners will contract with the company to manage their airplanes. In the meantime it has applied for an air operator’s certificate in China to operate intra-country and thereby comply with cabotage rules. “We think we’re on target [to gain approval] at the beginning of next year,” said Hansell.