Raytheon Hawker 800XP, Smith, Nev., Aug. 28, 2006–Amazingly, there were no fatalities when Hawker N879QS, collided with a Schleicher sailplane at 16,000 feet 42 miles southeast of Reno, Nev. Cleared to descend from 16,000 to 11,000, the Hawker captain saw something out of the corner of her eye to the left. She then saw the glider filling the windshield. She pushed the yoke down and to the right to try to avoid the glider.
It appears that the informational picketing by NetJets pilots, who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1108, is having the desired effect of putting pressure on company management to hammer out a new contract with the pilot workforce. On May 27 the pilots conducted simultaneous informational picketing sessions at Teterboro Airport, N.J., and West Palm Beach Airport, Fla.
Two years ago at this time, Jim Renfro, president and owner of Highlands Aviation at Avon Park, Fla., said he was spending most of his time on the road, “drumming up business and hanging on.” Last July, he allowed that things were looking better and his small independent shop was booked through the summer. As it turned out, last year was “the best year we’ve ever had,” and as of June this year, the company was booked well into the fall.
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 last month began “informational picketing” at the company’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Their contract became renewable in January last year.
After the NetJets-operated Raytheon Hawker that collided with a sailplane in Nevada on August 28 (see page 106) prepared to land, one of the jet’s passengers cinched up his seat belt and the inboard portion of the seat belt detached. The passenger moved to another seat and the same thing happened.
A former NetJets researcher places high odds on the likelihood of the fractional pioneer operating a fleet of supersonic business jets. Michael Baur, now with air-limo start-up Pogo, told attendees at last month’s SATS demonstration in Virginia that, while at NetJets, he reported directly to chairman Richard Santulli on his research into the suitability of VLJs and SSBJs for frax ops.
The Lufthansa Private Jet service, which allows passengers to book NetJets Europe aircraft for connections with the German airline’s scheduled services, now includes Frankfurt Airport. When the program began at the end of March it served only Munich.
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.
Although it is approaching its 20th birthday, the fractional aircraft industry is still very much mired in adolescence. It’s come a long way since NetJets chairman Richard Santulli invented the concept of fractional ownership and launched his program in 1986, but the industry still has a long uphill road ahead.
According to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1108, the union representing NetJets pilots, 93 percent of voting members have authorized a strike, should the National Mediation Board (NMB) release the group for self help. At present, the NMB has put contract negotiations between the NetJets’ pilots and management on hold, though the two groups are engaged in non-mediated bargaining sessions.