BJETS, which aims to be Asia's first dedicated fractional ownership operation, plans to begin commercial flights by the first week of September with five aircraft.

Air operators' certificates were obtained in May and the company, which has 30 jets on firm order, has signed maintenance contracts with regional authorised workshops, says chief executive Mark Baier.

The company, which has offices in India and Singapore, had said earlier that it would begin operations by end-June. But Baier now says: "The first week of September was always our target and commercial flights will start by then. We've been running test flights for over a month now and everything is falling in place."

There is growing interest in BJETS' plans to have dedicated business jet fleets and guaranteed availability for customers in Asia, especially India, he adds. "We've said before that there is a lot of pent-up demand for business jets, and that can be seen in the number of enquiries since we announced our plans in February. This is not from just businessmen, who are the traditional customers for corporate aviation. Many people who are new to business jets are keen to experience what we offer," says Baier.

BJETS has ordered 11 Hawker 900XPs, nine Hawker 850XPs, 10 Hawker 4000s and 20 Cessna Citation CJ2+s, and these will have Indian registrations. That helps to remove much of the red tape faced by non-Indian registered aircraft flying into the country. The aircraft will be based primarily in India's financial capital Mumbai and in Singapore. The company hopes to have 15 aircraft in service by the end of this year. Apart from fractional ownership, BJETS will also offer block charter and aircraft management services.

The company's major shareholder is the privately held USA-based investment firm Briley Group, whose chief executive Bala Ramamoorthy set up BJETS in 2006. Its other backer is Indian Hotels, operator of the Taj brand of luxury hotels in India and part of the Tata Group international conglomerate.

Analysts believe that BJETS' plan to have a bigger focus on India is sound because of the country's growing economic wealth, which means that it possibly has the largest potential for business aviation in Asia. But the country also faces numerous challenges, including its woeful infrastructure and an acute shortage of maintenance facilities dedicated to business aviation.

Asia is more restrictive than the USA or Europe when it comes to landing permits, overflights and fees. But some analysts believe that a company like BJETS, which takes a punt and places aircraft around the region, could reap rich benefits from a fast-growing corporate aviation market that could take off rapidly in the coming years.

Source: Flight International