It’s that time of the year when AIN’s editors cast our collective mind back over the people and the events that captured our attention through the past 12 months and inspired the thousands of manuscript pages that filled our 2004 issues. Despite (or because of) the U.S.’s preoccupation with a repeat of 9/11, it didn’t happen, and the turnaround in the fortunes of the U.S.
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.
While the Raytheon Hawker Horizon was one of the first to blaze the super-midsize business jet trail when it was launched at the 1996 NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., it became the last of the new breed to be certified. The airplane gained provisional FAA approval just two days before Christmas, almost four years after the originally expected spring 2001 approval.
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.
A day after news of the NetJets order for 50 Hawker 400XPs, Cessna Aircraft parent company Textron announced that it expects no financial impact from the fractional provider’s earlier cancellation of an order for 50 Citation CJ3s. The company expects the canceled order, applied to jets slated for delivery in the late 2005 to 2008 timeframe, to be reallocated to existing customer orders.
Fractional operator NetJets announced an order late last month for 50 Hawker 400XPs and eight midsize Hawker 800XPs, a deal valued in excess of $360 million. The order also includes an option for 50 Hawker 400XPs, bringing the total potential value to more than $600 million. In addition, discussion is under way with an undisclosed company on a long-term maintenance agreement, which was to be finalized by the end of last year.
NetJets has doubled its order for new Hawkers. The fractional operator, which announced at last year’s NBAA Convention an order for 30 Hawker 750s and 18 Hawker 900XPs, disclosed last month that it ordered another 30 Hawker 750s and 18 Hawker 900XPs. Both aircraft are derivatives of the Hawker 850XP and will replace that model on the production line.
The five major fractional operators fell short of AIR’s projected pilot hiring levels last year, according to statistics prepared by the Atlanta-based aviation employment consultant. The major players–Avantair, CitationShares, Flexjet, Flight Options and NetJets–hired 674 new pilots, more than 300 shy of AIR’s January 2006 estimate that 1,000 pilots would be required.
NetJets Europe pilots have yet to form their planned trade union and now there are signs that the movement to do so might be losing momentum as flight crews consider the revised pay and conditions offer the fractional ownership group made in early December.
Long-time business aviation leader Jim Christiansen might be feeling a little déjà vu after his appointment last month as president of NetJets Aviation in Columbus, Ohio. From 1990 to 1992 he was president of Executive Jet Aviation, as the company was known then.