What began as a concept that met with outright skepticism and indeed some hostility by the established aviation industry has blossomed into a viable branch of business and personal transportation that continues to fuel manufacturers’ production lines, gobbles up flight crews and, at least for now, staves off recessionary pressures by keeping order books fat.
Pilot hiring by the four major fractional aircraft ownership operators is far ahead of last year’s, according to figures compiled by AIR. The employment analyst reported that in the first eight months of this year, fractional operators hired 300 pilots, compared with 198 for all of last year. AIR reports that NetJets, FlightOptions, Flexjet and CitationShares employed 3,649 pilots as of August 31.
It’s been 21 years since Richard Santulli opened the doors of NetJets, having figured out a way to lower the barriers to entry to business aviation by selling fractional shares in corporate jets. Now all sorts of industries that sell expensive products have latched onto fractional shares; the latest are companies that sell specialized manufacturing equipment to factories that need to switch production lines to new products quickly.
Bombardier Flexjet (Booth No. 6418) yesterday announced the launch of Flexjet One, an aircraft management program that the company said combines the advantages of whole-airplane ownership with the benefits of the fractional and jet-card programs.
Bexair, the Bahrain-based executive charter firm, is set to take the size of its fleet into double digits with an order for a new Bombardier Challenger 605. The company is also preparing to open several new international bases and wants to develop
as a business aviation services group.
Los Angeles-based Cloud Nine Aviation received the first Learjet 60XR this week, following an entry-into-service delivery ceremony at the Learjet manufacturing facility in Wichita.
Thirty years ago, most people would have dismissed anyone who said they’d eventually make money by selling bottled water, especially since tap water was, and still is, plentiful and nearly free. But since then, a lot of people have actually traded tap water for bottled water, resulting in skyrocketing sales of the clear liquid in plastic bottles.
Bombardier set a new record for business jet deliveries in its latest financial year, shipping 212 airplanes in the 12 months to January 2007. But the weakness of the U.S. dollar means the Canadian industrial group’s aerospace division, with much of its manufacturing concentrated in Canada and the UK, has some way to go to match industry-best margins.
Operators who own a share of a fractional aircraft are to be given the same Cape Town Treaty protection as sole owners have had since March 2006. They are to be included in the International Registry of Mobile Assets (IRMA), which provides a single universal point of reference and record, and was set up under the treaty (which comprises the Cape Town Convention and the related Protocol on Aircraft Assets).
The regional NBAA forum at West Palm Beach International (PBI), Fla., on March 10 served a slice of business aviation with complex ingredients. Fractional ownership has added occupants to the back of the cabin without always expanding the industry pie.