The fractional aircraft industry continued to grow during the 12 months ending April 30. Shares at the four major providers and 16 regional/local companies tracked by AvData of Wichita increased 7.2 percent, to more than 6,350. During the same period, the combined fleet expanded 5.1 percent, to 832 aircraft. Flexjet, alone among the four major providers, lost ground during the period.
Charter and Fractional » Fractional
News and issues concerning the fractional-ownership industry and markets, including company announcements, regulations, new developments and labor issues.
NetJets Europe has launched a new NetJets Corporate Card program to market smaller blocks of flight time in its fractional-ownership fleet without the need to acquire an aircraft share. At the same time, it has rebranded Marquis Private Jet Card as the NetJets Private Jet Card, with NetJets having taken control of the London-based Marquis Jet Partners Europe operation.
“The pilot’s failure to obtain the proper touchdown point on the runway at Cuyahoga County Airport [CGF], Cleveland, Ohio, and the PIC’s failure to initiate a go-around,” were cited by the NTSB in its recently published final report as the probable cause of the Feb. 10, 2002, overrun accident of a Flight Options Mitsubishi MU-300 Diamond, N541CW.
A scheduled mediation session failed to settle a lawsuit in which former Raytheon Travel Air pilots allege they were fired because of their union-organizing activities when the company merged with Flight Options. The case is now set to go to trial on May 11. The pilots filed the lawsuit in late 2002. Court records show that the four pilots suing Flight Options are Thomas Bowden, William Brunet, Thomas Jeter and William Tumlin.
HeliFlite Shares, which has its operations center at Alliance Airport in Texas, obtained its Part 135 charter certificate in February and last month added a pre-owned Sikorsky S-76 it bought from Jet Aviation to its fractional fleet of two Bell 430s that it operates in the New York City area.
Last month, fractional provider Bombardier Flexjet announced a program for substituting a finance lease for the acquisition payment of a fractional share. Under the “Jet Rich Quick” program, customers pay no money down and a fixed monthly payment for the lease, which could involve a term of two or four years. They also pay the regular monthly management fee and the hourly occupied fee for time flown.
To inaugurate its newest aircraft type, fractional provider Flight Options is offering a reduced hourly occupied rate for customers who sign up for shares in the Embraer Legacy. For the first 24 months of the 60-month contract, the share owner will pay an hourly rate of $1,990, comparable to that of a Hawker 800XP. At the 25th month, the rate reverts to the regular $2,485 per hour.
Profits soared last year at Warren Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, though not all of the company’s divisions did well. In his annual letter to shareholders released last month, the investment mogul summarized the reduced performance of FlightSafety International and NetJets– the two largest companies in their respective fields of simulator training and fractional ownership.
Avantair, the Clearwater, Fla.-based fractional that operates Piaggio Avantis exclusively, reported an 85-percent increase in Q2 revenue over the same period a year earlier. Sluggish deliveries from Piaggio contributed to an overall loss, though the company does expect to break even upon reaching 40 aircraft in service. If current estimates hold, that will happen by the end of this year.
A “much improved situation is emerging at NetJets,” according to Warren Buffett, chairman of parent company Berkshire Hathaway. In his annual letter to stockholders, published February 28, Buffett said NetJets has “never had a problem growing. But profits had been erratic.”