Million Air at press time was set to open its first FBO in Europe through a joint venture with the Flying Group of Belgium. The U.S. network will operate Flying Group’s new facility at Paris Le Bourget Airport in France. It will likely be known as Million Air Paris. The arrangement with Million Air does not relate to any of Flying Group’s other activities, namely executive aircraft charter, fractional ownership and management.
Assuming the next six months or so do not see a deterioration in trading conditions, the NetJets Europe fractional-ownership program should finally achieve an operating profit in the second half of this year.
On behalf of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC), two separate task forces are tackling the vexed issue of regulating fractional ownership operations in Europe. One group is focusing on safety and licensing concerns and the other on security. Neither is expected to complete its recommendations until the middle of the year, according to an ECAC spokeswoman.
At the EBACE gathering in Geneva earlier this year, the joint industry working group on business aircraft operations (IWG-BAO), which includes NBAA, the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), presented the initial findings of its work on corporate, fractional and commercial operations, with a view toward making a recommendation to the ECAC Task Force on fractional ownership.
PlaneSense, the Pilatus PC-12 regional fractional ownership program of Manchester, N.H.-based Alpha Flying, celebrated its 10th anniversary last month. The company, thought to have more than 100 shareowners, currently operates 20 PC-12s and has more on order. The company was formed to address the “shorter-distance, regional needs” of its shareowners.
In the first eight months of this year, the top five fractional operators hired more pilots than they did in all of last year, according to aviation job placement firm AIR of Atlanta. NetJets, Flight Options, Flexjet, CitationShares and Avantair hired 498 pilots through August this year versus 482 for all of last year.
A new European fractional ownership program that will begin operations this month is offering shares in pre-owned Cessna Citation CJ1s. UK-based European Business Jets (EBJ) was launched through a $3.7 million share flotation on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM small companies market in April. It expects to operate a fleet of five CJ1s by year-end and to double that number by the end of next year.
Ever since the FAA issued its final rule on “Regulation of Fractional Aircraft Ownership Programs and On-demand Operations” known as Part 91, Subpart K [which took effect in the U.S. in February–Ed.] in September 2003, business aviation associations on both sides of the Atlantic have been trying to harmonize regulatory standards for fractional ownership operations.
Cleveland-based fractional operator Flight Options is now offering an optional extended service program for new owners that covers flights to Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. Another new option includes applying part of the cost of the company’s JetPass card toward the purchase of a fractional share.
All of the major providers have jet-card programs: NetJets has Marquis, Flight Options has JetPass, CitationShares has Vector and Flexjet has Premier Fleet. It should be noted that the Marquis program is unique among the card programs because it is run by an outside party that buys shares in NetJets aircraft and resells blocks of time in them. The other three fractional providers administer their respective jet-card programs themselves.