While the charter industry has seen some changes this year, the fractional-share business is undergoing a wrenching transition, with the shutdown of Avantair and the announced sale of Bombardier’s Flexjet to Flight Options parent Directional Capital.
The Bombardier CSeries took to the air for the first time on September 16 from Montreal Mirabel Airport, marking the start of a planned year-long flight-test program involving five CS100 prototypes.
The aircraft took off at about 10 a.m. on a brisk, crystal-clear day in Mirabel following a week of less-than-ideal weather conditions for flying. The milestone comes some eight-and-a-half months after the date specified by the original program schedule and follows two more recent missed targets, one at the end of June and the other at the end of July.
Bankruptcy hearings for Avantair held last month in Tampa, Fla., brought some needed good news for share owners of the 56 ex-Avantair Piaggio Avantis who are hoping to return their aircraft to the sky. During one of the hearings, the Italian aircraft manufacturer unveiled a Service Bulletin (SB) that provides a path for owners of these Avantis to regain their airworthiness certificates, which were revoked by the FAA in late July and August.
Directional Aviation Capital (DAC)–the Kenn Ricci-led company that owns Flight Options, Sentient Jet, Nextant Aerospace and Constant Aviation, among others–announced last month that it is buying fractional provider Flexjet from Bombardier for $185 million. The transaction is expected to close by year-end, pending U.S. government approvals. All Flexjet employees, including president Deanna White, will remain in place, Ricci said.
VistaJet’s audacious deal with Bombardier to buy up to 142 new aircraft raised some industry eyebrows last year, in part because it seemed to signal a massive escalation of a fleet that currently consists of just 37 jets. But fleet replacement is a big part of a company business plan founded on operating only young aircraft still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. The average age of its aircraft now stands at less than two years.
VistaJet is moving into the U.S. private lift market with a new alliance with Jet Aviation Flight Services, which is to operate a fleet of 12 Bombardier Globals on its behalf. The Europe-based group has made clear its intention to target former and current fractional ownership clients in building its North American client base. Under the terms of an agreement announced on September 6 in New York City, the Europe-based private flight provider also is teaming with start-up membership-based program Wheels Up to market VistaJet’s Flight Solutions Program (FSP) to customers in the U.S.
As the global economic recovery slowly builds, a combination of new jet designs and block changes of existing ones is taxiing for takeoff across the size spectrum into ever-narrowing and fiercely competitive niches.
As fuel price increases have encouraged airlines to fly larger aircraft on short-haul routes, Austria’s Salzburg Airport has found itself handling far fewer flights even as passenger traffic has shown a slight increase. Over the past two years, traveler numbers have increased by about 2.5 percent, while movements at the airport–named for Salzburg-born composer W. A. Mozart–have fallen by 15 percent.
Increasing competition and pressure on costs has led to some deep restructuring of European airlines, with an attendant move to higher-capacity aircraft and absorption of many regional carriers into national carriers.
Wilbur Wright was the first pilot to record a bird strike (in 1905), and the first fatal crash attributable to a bird strike came seven years later. But to most members of the non-flying public, the first time aircraft bird strikes became newsworthy was probably in 2009, when a flock of Canada geese sent Chesley Sullenberger’s A320 into the Hudson River.