By Karen Di Piazza
North Carolina-based Jetpool LLC, a management and acquisition company, has placed a fleet order of very light jets from Spectrum Aeronautical LLC. Jetpool has ordered the nine-place Freedom and the eight-place Independence. Spectrum began taking orders on its all-composite Freedom and Independence jets in 2006.
Currently, Jetpool operates a 2006 Citation XLS and a 2007 Citation CJ1+ under FAR Part 91.
We employ the pilots,” said Jetpool CEO Ryan Stone. “We’re a contracted flight department for companies and their employees. But we have big plans for both the Freedom and the Independence with our shared membership program.”
Stone said they hope to begin taking delivery of Freedom VLJs in 2010 and Independence aircraft in 2011 from Carlsbad, Calif.-based Spectrum.
He said he anticipated that Jetpool would operate 30 aircraft of various makes within three years.
Austin Blue, Spectrum’s president, said today’s price for the Freedom is $6.6 million; in 2006, the aircraft’s price was $6.2 million. The Freedom is scheduled for Federal Aviation Administration certification and first deliveries in 2009.
The Independence, set for certification and initial deliveries during 2010, goes for $3.9 million; in 2006, the jet was priced at $3.65 million. Blue said today’s list prices on the jets reflect inflation since 2006.
When Spectrum first announced its jets, the company didn’t brand them as VLJs.
“We’d been working on our technology long before anyone used the term ‘VLJ,'” Blue said. “At the time, we believed the public would perceive the term VLJs as ‘mini planes.’ Because our aircraft are larger, and our interior cabins are more spacious, along with standard amenities, what we know today as a VLJ doesn’t reflect our business aircraft. But we do agree with the concept of the VLJ—the operating economics.”
Blue said the aircraft also fit the VLJ category because of weight; both have less than a 10,000-pound gross maximum takeoff weight.
Spectrum’s aircraft development center is located in Spanish Fork, Utah. Blue said orders that have come in are from a mix of buyers.
“About 50 percent of orders come from individuals who want to own and operate their own plane or want someone else to operate and manage their aircraft, such as a company like Jetpool,” he said. “We have a lot of interest from Europe, as our aircraft is green—putting out fewer emissions. Aircraft emissions are a big deal in Europe. Currently, our focus is on U.S. and European orders. In the future, we’ll expand that market. We believe the business model that Jetpool is proposing is a good one.”
Jetpool’s shared ownership program
Stone said that Jetpool’s shared membership program isn’t like typical fractional-share programs.
“At max, each airplane will have four owners,” he said. “Of course, someone can purchase the whole aircraft. Each owner is guaranteed 73 days per year using his or her aircraft. For instance, a 25 percent share in the Independence will cost in the neighborhood of $1 million and $10,000 a month for management costs. For 25 percent ownership in the Freedom, a ballpark cost is just under $2 million, with monthly management fees projected under $15,000.”
Stone said Jetpool is currently in the process of working with the FAA to obtain its FAR Part 135 certificate.
“We’re hoping that will be accomplished by the end of year,” he said. “Our shared ownership program will continue to be operated under FAR Part 91, but having our own commercial certificate will enable us to provide on-demand air charter to the flying public. That service will be offered when aircraft owners aren’t using their planes.”
He said that by limiting four owners to each plane, rather than the typical one-sixteenth share offered by other companies, owners’ aircraft would readily be available. Stone added that both the Freedom and Independence have an enclosed lavatory, which he believes is important for his business model.
“It’s nice to know there’s a private restroom when you need one,” he said.
Stone said Jetpool’s market is geared to smaller companies that perceive air charter or ownership as being too expensive.
“We’ll be able to demonstrate that’s not the case,” he said. “For the most part, smaller companies have relied on commercial airline travel; however, traveling via airlines today has proven not to be cost effective.”
Stone said dependence on commercial airline travel today—given the flight delays, cancelled flights, long security lines and growing airline congestion at hubs—is costing companies more money.
“When you factor in all of this, plus a person’s day rate against the hassles of commercial airline travel, our shared membership program makes good business sense,” he said. “I’m not a pilot, I’m a businessman—this program is a sound business decision.”
For more information on Jetpool, visit [http://www.flyjetpool.com]; for more information on Spectrum, visit [http://www.spectrum.aero].