Flight Options is hoping to become the third major US fractional ownership company to expand into Europe, and is holding discussions with possible operating partners on the continent with a view to launching the programme next year.

Executive Jet and Bombardier began operations in 1996 and 1999, respectively, with the NetJets and Flexjet fractional ownership programmes.

Flight Options, established last October with 150-plus owners to date, is the fourth-largest fractional ownership scheme in the USA after Executive Jet, Bombardier and Raytheon Travel Air. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company operates Cessna Citation IIs, Raytheon Beechjet 400As, Hawker 800s, Bombardier Challenger 601s, and has ordered 25 Fairchild Envoy 7s - the business aircraft variant of the 728JET regional airliner. First Envoy 7 deliveries are planned for the fourth quarter of 2002. Flight Options president Darnell Martens says the company will operate the first Envoy 7s in North America, and may introduce them to Europe in 2003.

Flight Options is looking at placing three business aircraft in Europe initially, from the large, mid-size and entry level categories, "as a platform for further development". It is also evaluating the Envoy 3 business jet. Martens believes that none of the existing European fractional ownership programmes "has found the right formula" for Europe, and insists that financial and operational details of the European Flight Options scheme, under evaluation, will vary from its US stablemate.

Market leader NetJets operates 10 aircraft in Europe, with a further 12 scheduled for delivery over the next year. Bombardier's Flexjet fractional scheme, which started in July, operates one Bombardier Learjet 60 and one Learjet 45 and is planning to add a Challenger 604 by the end of the year.

Source: Flight International