In his annual letter to shareholders published early last month, investment mogul Warren Buffett said earnings improved last year at Berkshire Hathaway’s flight services division, which includes FlightSafety International (FSI) and NetJets. Last year the unit saw its pre-tax profits rise to $191 million on revenues of $3.24 billion, up substantially from the previous year’s $72 million profit on revenues of $2.43 billion.
Charter and Fractional » Fractional
News and issues concerning the fractional-ownership industry and markets, including company announcements, regulations, new developments and labor issues.
On December 23 NetJets pilots overwhelmingly elected the five-member master executive council (MEC) slate known as Strong Union. Eighty-nine percent of the more than 1,900-strong unionized fractional pilot workforce supported the candidates and delivered a vote of no confidence to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 284.
Jet Aviation, the aviation services company founded in Switzerland in 1967, was recently singled out for a prestigious safety award by its insurer, AIG Aviation of Atlanta. The company’s European aircraft management and charter divisions received AIG’s Operational Excellence Award for 2003.
Westlake Village, Calif.-based Jet Alliance claims to be the first company to offer fractional shares in the Eclipse 500 very light jet. “The technology used to build this aircraft allows us to offer shares at an incredible value,” said v-p Craig Arnold. A one-sixteenth share costs $75,500, with $1,250 per month maintenance charge and $650 per occupied hour fee.
Avantair, the fractional operator flying an all-Piaggio Avanti fleet, took delivery last month of its 16th copy of the Italian-built twin-turboprop pusher. The Fairfield, N.J., company said it will continue to receive one Avanti per month through 2007, which will bring the planned fleet to nearly 50 aircraft by the end of that year. At press time the number of Avantair share-owners stood at 132.
Raytheon Aircraft last month reached a “tentative agreement” for NetJets to purchase up to 50 Hawker Horizons for its fractional aircraft fleet. The deal is expected to be finalized before the end of this month. In mid-2003, NetJets canceled a 1999 order for 50 Horizons due to “developmental and certification delays.” Full certification of the Hawker Horizon is still not expected until around midyear.
While the fractional providers said publicly that switching to the more stringent rules of Part 91 Subpart K on February 17 was a nonevent, a look behind the scenes at NetJets reveals a somewhat more chaotic transition. It appears that the duty-time and crew-rest limitations of the new rule threw a proverbial monkey wrench into operations.
The four major fractional aircraft operators hired 482 pilots last year compared with 198 in 2003, bringing the total roster of fractional pilots to 3,649 last year, according to aviation hiring firm AIR in Atlanta.
Four Embraer Legacy Executive twinjets have joined Cleveland-based fractional operator Flight Options to provide owners with a large-cabin aircraft to supplement the company’s Challenger 601 and Gulfstream IV fleets, as well as allowing Hawker 800XP owners to upgrade. The Legacy Executive is an eight- to 13-passenger business jet version of the Brazilian manufacturer’s ERJ-135 regional jet.
In the first 11 months of last year, the four largest fractional aircraft operators hired just 186 pilots, compared with 997 in the same time frame in 2002, according to figures compiled by AIR Inc., an Atlanta-based aviation-career consulting firm. November was one of the more active months, however, with 25 pilots reportedly being hired by one operator, Flight Options, AIR numbers show.