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.
The industry’s fortunes have changed dramatically in the last three years, swinging wildly from the lowest of lows to almost unimaginable heights. For business aircraft makers, the current “cycle” likely will be remembered as one of the biggest roller-coaster rides in the industry’s history. Perhaps no company is more illustrative of the rapid turnaround than Dassault Falcon Jet.
Remarkably, the two pilots and three passengers on a NetJets Hawker 800XP (N879QS) and the pilot of a Schleicher sailplane escaped serious injury when the two aircraft collided at about 16,000 feet yesterday afternoon near Carson City, Nev. The pilot of the glider bailed out and landed safely, while the jet made a gear-up landing at Carson City Airport.
First it was NetJets’ pilots who picketed and finally got a new labor contract; now it’s the fractional’s mechanics and other support personnel who on Friday began “informational picketing” at the company’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Their contract became renewable in January last year.
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.
Aerion SSBJ–Aerion continues on track with development efforts for its supersonic business jet. High-speed testing on the Aerion supersonic natural-laminar-flow wing was expected to be carried out last month by using a rocket sled to achieve the necessary Mach 1.5 test speed.
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.
Certification of Dassault’s 69,000-pound (maximum takeoff weight) 7X remains on track for early next year. Although the 7X has yet to be certified, more than 40 of the $39.2 million long-range trijets are already in various stages of production.
Demand for aircraft charter is rising worldwide, with more businesses and private individuals willing and able to start taking this increasingly attractive alternative to scheduled airline services.