The world’s biggest operator of the Cessna Citation Mustang is calling time on the out-of-production very-light jet (VLJ) 17 years after first acquiring one.

Austria’s GlobeAir plans to gradually replace the 20 Mustangs on its charter fleet with the larger M2, the latest version of Textron Aviation’s Model 525 entry-level family. It will start with a second-hand example later this year, supplementing it with a new aircraft in 2025.


Source: GlobeAir

GlobeAir acquired its first Mustang 17 years ago

By the end of the decade chief executive and founder Bernhard Fragner hopes to be operating an all-Model 525 fleet of 25 to 30 aircraft.

It comes as GlobeAir prepares to open a new hangar and headquarters at its Linz airport base in June, adding third-party maintenance, repair, and overhaul capabilities with a view to become “a major European MRO”.

Fragner is not unhappy with the four-passenger Mustang – certificated amid the peak of VLJ popularity in 2006 and one of a tiny number of designs that made it to serious production. However, he fears that eight years after Textron axed the programme, it will become harder to obtain components for the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615F-powered type.

“Customers love the Mustang. It does a great job for us. But I need to make sure that our business has a future. The appetite for spare parts on the market is becoming less and less and sooner or later we will run into parts shortages,” he says.

GlobeAir’s oldest Mustang dates from 2008 and its youngest is 10 years old, although Fragner says regular exterior painting and refurbished interiors have ensured the fleet has remained “looking nice, shiny and new”.

The company has been growing its Mustang fleet since setting up with three examples in 2007. By 2012 it had a dozen, and in 2019 it acquired four Mustangs operated by Luxembourg charter provider Wijet to take its fleet to 21.

Seating six passengers, the M2, launched in 2011, is a larger, faster aircraft and its 1,550nm (2,870km) range is about 200nm more than the Mustang. Fragner says GlobeAir will operate the two types in parallel for several years, “which allows us to learn the new machine and adapt our processes”.

One thing Fragner insists is that GlobeAir’s business model will not change – he has no plans to move into larger Citations or longer-haul sectors.

Despite its name, the company only flies within Europe, focusing on the most popular city pairs. “By focusing on this core market and avoiding experimenting with the likes of Scandinavia or Eastern Europe we have been able to scale up and remain profitable by minimising empty legs,” he says.

The firm had a “good pandemic” as many who needed to continue travelling around Europe found chartering a small jet an effective and cost-effective solution, says Fragner.

Despite thinking demand would “cool off” as normal air travel resumed, he says he has been surprised at the company’s strong performance in the year so far, with ongoing airline disruption in Germany prompting many first-time users to contact GlobeAir.

Although the entry-level Mustang and M2 are considerably cheaper to operate than larger jets, Fragner says GlobeAir’s main selling point remains availability. “Being able to find a solution for the customer is vital, especially in the busy season,” he says. “That’s more important than pricing.”

GlobeAir is in the final stages of building its 1,200sq m (12,900sq ft) hangar – capable of housing eight Mustangs and with workshops and a parts store.

Fragner says the building is four times the size of its current rented site. The move was prompted by a lack of capacity in its own facility, and difficulty sourcing outside MRO services in recent years.

“A lot of people left the industry during Covid, including in maintenance, and last year we saw that we could have flown more hours if we had the availability. Our rented facilities were getting too small, so we decided we should build ourselves,” he says.

With space next to the hangar to expand, Fragner is sure the investment will not only help GlobeAir keep its aircraft earning but attract third-party custom too. “We want to be a major MRO in Europe,” he says.

GlobeAir’s clients – about 40% of whom come to GlobeAir directly rather than through brokers – include several international sports stars who use the jets to travel to tournaments and matches.

“For people aiming to be in the top 10 in their sport, their intense training schedule means their most important commodity is time,” he says. “They would rather spend time with their physio or mental coach than sitting in airports, and because they are travelling a lot, their family time is also vital.”

Other typical customers are C-suite executives from companies with revenues of more than $100 million, and individuals with at least $1 million free cash flow a year to spend on their lifestyles, he says.

Sometimes the two markets overlap. “People who discover the benefits of private flying for business will often then opt to use us for leisure and family trips too,” says Fragner.