US charter company Jet Partners has placed refundable deposits on 100 Avocet ProJets as Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) nears a decision on taking risk-sharing responsibility for certification and production of the light jet, writes Graham Warwick.

The aircraft are to be used by the UltraJet membership-based charter programme, with deliveries beginning in January 2007.

Avocet and IAI expect to complete definition of the ProJet by the end of November, when deposits will be made non-refundable. IAI will make its decision on participation around the same time, says Avocet chief executive David Tait. "It looks positive," says Ofer Shifris, IAI general manager, new aircraft programmes. The Israeli manufacturer's participation is critical, says Jet Partners chairman John DePalma.

Engine and avionics suppliers will be selected by year-end, with Pratt & Whitney Canada's PW600 competing against Williams International's FJ33 for the former, and the Avidyne Entegra, Garmin G1000 and Honeywell Apex for the latter. "First flight is in less than two years, with certification in less than a year and first deliveries by the end of 2006," says Tait. IAI certificated the Galaxy (now Gulfstream G200) in 11 months from first flight, says Shifris.

Established in 1999, Cleveland, Ohio-based UltraJet has 50 members and plans to add 20 a quarter. Members are flown in aircraft owned or managed by Jet Partners' Avbase charter subsidiary. The $2 million ProJet will allow UltraJet to halve its hourly rate for a light jet to $1,400/h, says DePalma. UltraJet has a fleet of 15 owned and managed aircraft and plans to begin buying used Cessna CJ1s next year as interim aircraft until deliveries of two ProJets a month begin in 2007.

Source: Flight International