After years of looking to enter the Chinese private aviation market, NetJets finally confirmed plans for a new joint venture in the People’s Republic of China today at the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (Abace) in Shanghai. Though NetJets is known as the company that pioneered the sale of aircraft fractional shares in the U.S. and Europe, its services in China “will begin only with managing and chartering aircraft that are wholly owned by customers” rather than fractional ownership.
Atlanta-based Ascension Air is now offering three fully equipped 2012 Cirrus SR22Ts to individuals and pilots through its fractional ownership program. The company’s fractional ownership program requires about $10,000 down and a monthly management fee of $2,000. Ascension’s new SR22Ts include 60/40 FlexSeating in the back seat, which includes a third over-the-shoulder seat belt allowing for a fifth passenger and 60/40 fold-down seating.
As CitationAir transitions from selling fractional shares to focusing on its Jet Card and Jet Management products, the company plans to “begin reducing its aircraft fleet as Jet Share contracts expire,” according to a statement that AIN obtained yesterday from company president and CEO William Schultz. “A corresponding number of pilots will be furloughed as aircraft are removed from the fleet, making way for new managed aircraft,” he added.
Milestone Aviation Group (Booth No 7010), a helicopter financing company, made a splash at Heli-Expo this year, announcing a $480 million deal with Eurocopter (Booth No. 1917) for 16 EC225s, a contract with Sikorsky Aircraft (Booth No. 6148) for three S-92s (terms not disclosed), and a $125-135 million leasing agreement with major operator Bristow Group for five large helicopters.
CitationAir has stopped selling fractional shares in new aircraft and ceased renewals for current fractional-share customers, the Cessna Aircraft subsidiary confirmed to AIN yesterday. Effective last week, “CitationAir will be streamlining our offerings to deliver those products in our portfolio that have demonstrated the greatest customer demand,” CitationAir president and CEO William Schultz wrote in an email sent to employees.
Fractional share operator AirSprint Private Aviation has quietly but steadily been building its business in Canada for the past 12 years, and since last June it has been expanding into the Southwest U.S. Calgary-based AirSprint’s Canadian fleet consists of eight Cessna Citation XLSs and 13 Pilatus PC-12s. AirSprint has three PC-12s based in the U.S., at its Scottsdale, Ariz., office, and the company is planning to expand the U.S. fleet as word spreads that there is an alternative to jets or twin turboprops in the Southwest U.S.
The U.S. government claims that NetJets owes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) nearly $643 million in federal excise taxes, assessed penalties and interest. The amount is just $125 million less than the $768 million in pre-tax earnings that NetJets parent Berkshire Hathaway reported in its last financial report for the “other” category of subsidiaries that includes NetJets, FlightSafety International and other businesses.
When CitationAir founder and CEO Steve O’Neill left the company at the beginning of November, the transition in leadership was expected to be nearly seamless, especially since the man who was promoted to succeed him had been with the fractional provider as long as O’Neill himself.
William (Bill) Schultz, previously the company’s executive vice president, was named to the top position in September, two months before O’Neill’s departure.
In last month’s issue of AIN, in Part 1 of the charter/fractional special report, we covered the current state of the charter and fractional share segments, both in the U.S. and worldwide.
Like most of the general aviation industry, the charter and fractional sectors have reported stable activity during the past year, with pockets of growth and decline although the number of charter hours flown so far this year is higher than the number of fractional hours.