The 50th anniversary of the first flight of the first Learjet, the Model 23, on Oct. 7, 1963, begged to be celebrated and Bombardier obliged with gusto, holding two events at the company’s main assembly facility in Wichita on October 4 and 5 and inviting current and former employees and their families, a few special guests and owners and operators who brought examples of almost every Learjet production model. Only the Learjet 55 was absent, as the aircraft planned for the celebration could not make it at the last minute.
Learjet spent a good part of yesterday celebrating the “start of the delivery process” of its new Learjet 75. The first aircraft went to business entrepreneur Louis Beck and his Speedbird LCC. Beck, present at the delivery ceremonies, expressed satisfaction with the acquisition. He is a long-time Learjet owner and said he had never heard a pilot complain about Speedbird’s previous aircraft, a Learjet 45. And he added, “there’s also the unmistakable sex appeal that is Learjet.” The second delivery was five Learjet 75s to Canada-based charter operator London Air Services.
Aviation software company Coastal Aviation Technologies has launched a software platform that allows independent air charter operators to combine their fleets virtually, generating scale efficiencies seen only at the largest charter companies. The Air Charter Alliance Platform uses its proprietary fleet schedule optimization system to provide charter operators with the ability to reduce deadhead flying and increase aircraft time available for revenue service.
A New York City bash on the deck of the Intrepid last night continued Flexjet’s six-city “Legends Redefined” tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Learjet. Attendees were invited to take a private tour of the Learjet 85 model and test-drive Aston Martins before sipping cocktails on the Hudson River. Flexjet has ordered 30 Learjet 85s, with deliveries scheduled to begin next year.
328 Group’s Jets has been named a Dassault Aviation authorized service center. The company can perform line maintenance on the Falcon 900 and 2000 at its London Biggin Hill MRO facility. Jets acquired the MRO business from Jet Aviation late last year. The company employs approximately 30 licensed B1 and B2 engineers at Biggin Hill and is recruiting more.
While the charter industry has seen some changes this year, the fractional-share business is undergoing a wrenching transition, with the shutdown of Avantair and the announced sale of Bombardier’s Flexjet to Flight Options parent Directional Capital.
Directional Aviation Capital (DAC)–the Kenn Ricci-led company that owns Flight Options, Sentient Jet, Nextant Aerospace and Constant Aviation, among others–announced last month that it is buying fractional provider Flexjet from Bombardier for $185 million. The transaction is expected to close by year-end, pending U.S. government approvals. All Flexjet employees, including president Deanna White, will remain in place, Ricci said.
VistaJet’s audacious deal with Bombardier to buy up to 142 new aircraft raised some industry eyebrows last year, in part because it seemed to signal a massive escalation of a fleet that currently consists of just 37 jets. But fleet replacement is a big part of a company business plan founded on operating only young aircraft still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. The average age of its aircraft now stands at less than two years.
VistaJet is moving into the U.S. private lift market with a new alliance with Jet Aviation Flight Services, which is to operate a fleet of 12 Bombardier Globals on its behalf. The Europe-based group has made clear its intention to target former and current fractional ownership clients in building its North American client base. Under the terms of an agreement announced on September 6 in New York City, the Europe-based private flight provider also is teaming with start-up membership-based program Wheels Up to market VistaJet’s Flight Solutions Program (FSP) to customers in the U.S.
TAG Engineering Le Bourget has joined Bombardier’s authorized service facility (ASF) network as an authorized line maintenance facility. The MRO is now able to provide line- and base-level maintenance services for the Learjet 60, Learjet 60XR, Challenger 300, Challenger 605, Global Express, Global Express XRS and Global 5000 as well as Global 5000 and Global 6000 equipped with the Bombardier Vision flight deck. It is the only Bombardier ASF at Le Bourget.