The founder of Europe's first fractional ownership operation for Diamond D-Jets believes waiting times for the single-engined aircraft could push prospective buyers into his programme in the short term.

Stephane Ledermann's Luxembourg-based start-up Smart Air has ordered eight D-Jets for delivery from the first quarter of 2010, with an option to take one further aircraft a month.

He is selling 10% shares in each aircraft for $200,000, with monthly management fees of euros 3,000 ($4,500) and three bands of hourly charges of between €900 and €1,350, depending on the area of Europe the departure or arrival airport is in.

Owners of 10% shares will need to give 10 days' notice when they want to fly, with this falling to five days for those who own 40% shares.

Ledermann believes there is a growing market of potential fractional users in Europe who fly more than the 50h a year under which charter makes sense, but less than the 400h at which owning an aircraft becomes economical, and who do not need the larger aircraft offered by rivals such as NetJets.

"The great thing about the D-Jet is its size," he says. "People are always surprised when they step in the cabin."

He is also talking to Diamond distributors about offering would-be owners who face a wait of several years for their aircraft the chance to part-own a D-Jet in the meantime, and then sell on their share once they take delivery.

The aircraft will be single-crew operated and Smart Air plans to recruit up to 50 pilots. Because the company will not charge fractional owners positioning fees, Ledermann says pilots will work seven days on, five days off, "living out of a suitcase" while on duty by overnighting near the aircraft's final destination on any day. "Paying the pilot €200 for a hotel, meal and taxis is cheaper than flying home empty," he says.

Ledermann, who was formerly chief finance officer for Swiss-based turboprop aircraft fractional ownership programme Jetfly Aviation, says the most popular routes will be between London, Paris, Geneva and Luxembourg.

However, Smart Air will cover the whole of Europe from Scandinavia and the Baltic to the Balkans and Iberian peninsula. After launching Smart Jet in May, he says the business has secured letters of intent for shares worth a total of 2.5 aircraft and expects it to break even once it is operating 15 aircraft.

Source: Flight International