Continuing demand for fractional ownership and charter services manifested itself at the NBAA show through major business jet orders from operators expanding and diversifying their fleets.
Fledgling operator XOJet announced a deal with Bombardier for 80 Challenger 300 super mid-size jets - 20 orders and 60 options - for its ownership, leasing and charter programme. The award followed the order for 30 Cessna Citation Xs signed at the show, taking XOJet's fleet to 47 of the high-speed jets over the next three years.
"There is no doubt that we will exercise our Challenger 300 options," says XOJet president Paul Tuow. "The demand for our programmes is so high, but our biggest problem is getting the manufacturers to build the aircraft faster, our customers want them today." XOJet has 12 Citation Xs in its fleet already and plans to take delivery of another five by the end of the year.
"We plan to double aircraft deliveries each year, increasing our fleet size by 2011 to 127 mid-size business jets," Tuow says. Deliveries from the new order of Citation Xs begin in 2008 and will continue to the end of 2010, while Challenger 300 deliveries will begin late 2008.
"We have ambitious expansion plans which include further aircraft acquisitions, probably large cabin, long-range aircraft, and establishing new bases in other world regions, starting with Europe," he says.
To help fund the expansion XOJet has secured $143 million in equity and debt financing from TPG and Lehman Brothers. The latter has also invested an additional $220 million in aircraft lease financing, bringing the total funding raised to date to $524 million.
"Business aviation isn't a privilege any longer, it's a necessity and we expect demand for private jet travel to continue to grow rapidly," Tuow says.
This view is supported by fractional ownership company PlaneSense, which, like XOJet, has added a second aircraft type to its regional operation with an order for 25 Grob SPn light jets. The $7.2 million aircraft, which will enter service from late next year, provides a move-up product for the Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based operator of 30 Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprops.
"We can't get the SPns quickly enough," says PlaneSense president George Antoniadis. "Our customers have been asking for more range and speed and are delighted with our selection.
We are also getting a lot of interest from fractional owners of the Hawker 400XP, whose contracts with rival companies are coming up for renewal," he says.
PlaneSense has not ruled out further fleet expansion and diversification. "We are looking at a number of options, but will continue to grow carefully and conservatively," it says.