With the consummation of the Flight Options/Raytheon Travel Air merger on March 21, the fractional ownership business is “a two-horse race between Flight Options and NetJets, relegating the other providers to boutique markets.” So says Flight Options CEO Kenn Ricci, characteristically confident in the future of the frax operator he founded in 1998.
HeliSolutions, the fractional helicopter provider in São Paulo, Brazil, has started a fractional jet company called JetSolutions, according to HeliSolutions president Allan Paiotti. Operating partners in JetSolutions include TAM (the distributor for Cessna in Brazil), Embraer and Swift Aviation Group of the U.S., the launch customer for Embraer’s Legacy business jet.
“It was definitely our second choice, but it turned out to be a good one.” That’s how corporate air transport manager Rich Sismour characterized GE’s move to Stewart International Airport (SWF) in Newburgh, N.Y., from Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, N.Y.
It will probably be another six months before the FAA issues its final rule to regulate fractional aircraft ownership operations under new Part 91 Subpart K and to amend existing Part 135 rules for on-demand charter flights. The comment period for the proposed rule ended in November last year, but the FAA only just signed off last month on the final version and sent it to the DOT.
It’s nearly as certain as death and taxes. As soon as a manufacturer introduces a new airplane, NetJets announces orders. Last month’s NBAA Convention was no exception. The Columbus, Ohio-based fractional jet operator placed orders (including options) for 200 of the newest business jets introduced in Orlando, Fla., by Cessna and Gulfstream, transactions that have a potential value of nearly $2 billion.
Fractional aircraft owners who were assured five years ago–when business aviation was booming–that their shares would retain 75 to 80 percent of their value are discovering to their dismay that those shares have in some cases retained as little as 50 percent of the original worth. “It’s the first real test of the fractional-ownership system,” said one observer, “and some of the share owners aren’t liking what they’re seeing.”
A former marketing executive at fractional aircraft provider Bombardier Flexjet has established Fractional Insider, a company that he promises will provide current and prospective share owners with objective information about the fractional industry. Initially, all services, except for a bi-monthly newsletter, will be fee-based, according to president and CEO Mike Riegel.
The rate of pilot hiring this year by five major fractional aircraft ownership providers–CitationShares, Flexjet, Flight Options, NetJets and Corporate Aircraft Partners–is up 19 percent from last year, according to AIR Inc., an Atlanta-based aviation personnel career tracking and placement service. AIR reported that in July the fractionals hired 107 pilots, bringing this year’s seven-month hiring total to 723.
Aircell said it will charge a flat monthly fee of $1,495 for unlimited access to its air-to-ground broadband data service by business aviation users.
The zero-based budgeting of the 1970s has transformed this year into ground-zero-based budgeting. When aviation faces economic crisis, it returns to basics–productivity, time saving and security. These core values of business aircraft remain the bedrock. All else is changeable.