Preparing for future growth of its U.S. and European operations–and in spite of mounting losses–fractional ownership giant NetJets has placed orders for 72 business jets valued at more than $1.6 billion.
More than 20 years ago, fractional jet ownership began with NetJets and then expanded rapidly in the late 1990s with the growth of Raytheon Travel Air and Flight Options (now just Flight Options, which is wholly owned by Raytheon), Bombardier’s Flexjet and the Cessna/ TAG Aviation CitationShares joint venture, among others.
As recently as four years ago, some observers openly questioned whether Bombardier’s Flexjet fractional ownership operation would still be around in 2006. Today, not only is Flexjet open for business, but it has turned the corner and achieved solid profitability–a milestone accomplishment in the fractional world.
Tag Aviation president and CEO Jake Cartwright has projected another record year for U.S. operations in 2006. Since January 1, 25 fully managed aircraft have been added to the fleet, raising the total to 100 aircraft at more than 60 U.S. locations.
UK-based fractional ownership program European Business Jets (EBJ) is looking to move into aircraft management to boost its available fleet. The company is also considering adding new types to its fleet, including the Embraer Phenom 100 and HondaJet very light jets. It sells shares in pre-owned jets and currently operates a Cessna CitationJet and a Citation CJ1.
The union representing some 760 Flight Options pilots is charging that the Raytheon-owned fractional share company is engaging in a pattern of harassing and hostile behavior as both sides continue negotiations toward an initial contract. Under terms of the National Labor Relations Act those talks can continue through August 2007 before a strike could be called.
NetJets Europe’s order for 24 Dassault Falcon 7Xs reflects a powerful declaration of intent for both companies. For Dassault, the deal–valued at $1 billion–is its largest single business jet sale ever and a vital fillip for the 7X program, which now has an order book for 116 copies of the fly-by-wire trijet.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has moved to ease restrictions on access to U.S. skies for foreign charter operators. It will increase to 12 (from six) the number of flights any one operator can make per year into the country before having to apply for a Part 129 foreign carrier certificate, and address applications on an ad hoc basis pending a permanent rule change that could take another two years to implement.
Helicopter fractional ownership and charter company HeliFlite (Booth No. 5424) added a fourth Bell 430 to its fractional fleet in July and plans to add a fifth next summer. Since its founding in 1998, the Newark, N.J.-based company has sold more than 30 one-sixteenth shares in its Bell 430s, with each share providing 50 hours of flight time per year on a five-year contract.
Honeywell Aerospace expects the world’s business jet manufacturers to set a new delivery record next year and establish a strong precedent for a 10-year forecast period in which the industry will ship more than 12,000 airplanes worth $195 billion.