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Raytheon last Thursday reported the sale of Flight Options along with its quarterly earnings. Miami-based H.I.G. Capital, a
private equity firm, currently holding several aviation interests, is the buyer. The purchase price wasn't available last week but analysts expect the deal should close by the end of the year. H.I.G.
managing director, Doug Berman, put the company's motives in perspective telling the Miami Herald, "The private aviation industry is growing at two to three times the rate of the overall economy."
H.I.G. would acquire through the purchase some 130 luxury aircraft and operations based out of Cleveland. Flight Options provides fractional ownership programs and a pre-paid card plan and is adding
whole aircraft management services. But its "strong underlying fundamentals" -- going from 13 types flown to four, plus investments in customer service programs, plus a push toward programs that would
allow on-demand charter service -- made the purchase especially attractive to H.I.G. Following what it describes as steady improvements in Flight Options, Raytheon found this quarter "the right time
to divest of it." A Raytheon spokesman said the company will now focus on its core business of defense and government business.
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Bombardier Aerospace announced on Tuesday that it will build a new mid-sized business jet that's as fast as its stablemates, the 45
series and 60 series, but goes a lot farther on a tank of gas. Dubbed the NXT, Bombardier is predicting the eight-passenger aircraft with stand-up cabin will have a true transcontinental range of
3,000 nm, almost 1,000 nm more than the eight-seat 45XR and 500 nm more than the top-of-the-line 60XR. Just how the new aircraft will offer that kind of range hasn't been released in the initial announcements but Bombardier does describe the aircraft as a clean-sheet design that it says will fit between
midsized and super midsized business jets. "The design is customer-driven, based on what they have told us they need and want in a new midsize category business jet," Pierre-Gabriel Cote, president of
Bombardier Business Aircraft said in a news release. Bombardier says it has 65 letters of intent from those interested in buying the new aircraft. It plans to unveil it next October [possibly at
NBAA?] in time for the 45 anniversary of the first flight of the original Learjet. Parts will be made by an international assortment of contractors but final assembly and interiors will be done at
Bombardier's Wichita plant. The aircraft will also be flight tested there.
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Honda, which plans to begin mass production of the HondaJet in 2010 has announced it plans to start taking European orders for
its HondaJet in 2008, according to Nikkei. Current production targets for the jet have jumped to 100 units per year and Honda has applied for EASA certification. Over 100 orders for the jet have been
place in the U.S. since Honda began accepting orders in October of 2006. The company expects its engine-over-wing design and GE/Honda engine to allow for a better than 30 percent fuel efficiency
increase over competing aircraft. Honda expects its jet program to become profitable sometime in its fourth year of production (circa 2014).
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Prestige Jet, began operating out of Abu Dhabi International airport in May 2007 and now expects that a full quarter of its business
will by 2008 come from the Russian market. Corporate jet use in Russia is being fed by new wealth in the region and unreliable transportation alternatives. Russian economic growth is reflected in a
GDP that has increased at roughly seven percent per year since 2000 and marked by a 29 percent annual increase in income over the same period, according to Prestige Jet. Pivotal to Prestige Jet's
success is Russian policy that makes it "prohibitively expensive to register foreign-made planes with Russian airlines because of exorbitant import duties," according to Faris Deeb, managing director
of Prestige Jet. "As a result more and more companies and individuals are turning to charter companies such as ours." Deeb told AlBawaba.com that an economic upswing in Russia's new upper middle class
has ushered in an unprecedented spending spree with "discriminating preferences in transportation and travel." Business jets, particularly, have been embraced as indispensable tools of business.
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Alfred Rapetti, former chairman of Avantair has launched a new venture that seeks to mate airline affordability with business
jet seating and convenience. Tapping a nationwide network of existing charter firms, Rapetti's Business Jet Seats, Inc. saw its "soft launch" in July, acting in association with Earthjet and allowing
passengers to book by the seat, instead of by the aircraft. Business Jet Seats owns and operates exactly zero aircraft. A major factor in the business model is profiling the travel patterns of target
passengers and finding seat availability to match that demand. For that, Rapetti has special software that acts as a market simulation tool, allowing his business to understand demand in a geographic
sense. While the price of a flight through Business Jet Seats may be more on par with last minute business class airfares, the "product" could save a special slice of the market from the headache of
modern airline travel and roughly 50 percent of the cost (when compared to chartering an aircraft). Now, Rapetti's business has an exclusive arrangement as the only per-seat charter offering on
CharterX.com. Rapetti says his first month of business saw 4,000 travel inquiries.
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The Indian Air Force is slated to begin testing in 2008 for its first $60 million Boeing Business Jet after it is equipped with a
system designed to protect the aircraft from attack by ground or air based threats. The aircraft's intended duties will include transport of India's "VVIPs" -- its prime minister and top cabinet
officials -- and otherwise serve as India's version of Air Force 1. The aircraft is expected to fulfill its role as part of a modernization plan that would allow dignitaries increased overseas range
of 6,000 nautical miles, plus increased comfort, and an entourage of up to 49 people. It is only the first of three such aircraft on order with the IAF and is expected to enter service in April of
2008 after its defense systems have been successfully tested. Pilots currently flying in the elite communication squadron charged with carriage of India's most important political figures command
Boeing 737-200 and Embraer 135 Legacy jets.
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CAE SimuFlite has won a five-year contract with Dassault Falcon Jet as a "preferred provider" for maintenance training for Dassault Falcon
Jet employees. The contract sets up CAE as the provider for maintenance training associated with Dassault's Little Rock production facility, Dassault Aircraft Centers, and Dassault Falcon Jet Customer
Support, with on-site classroom training in Little Rock, Delaware, Dallas, and Morristown, New Jersey. CAE is currently the only maintenance training provider for Dassault's fly-by-wire Falcon 7X.
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Honeywell's Honeywell's Business Aviation Outlook forecast released last month anticipated a record 1,000-plus new business jet
deliveries for 2007 and better than 1,300 business jet deliveries next year. The company expects the total number of new jet deliveries through 2017 to be near 14,000. New orders for jets in the first
half of this year have risen 100 percent over the same period in 2006 with a relative explosion of demand in Europe. NetJets alone has added 589 European customers since 2005. International orders are
expected to account for roughly half of new aircraft deliveries through 2012. The demand abroad is driven by charters, the strength of the Euro, and wealth expansion in Eastern Europe and Russia.
According to Honeywell, those factors have coupled well with one primary force in the markets -- replacement of aging aircraft.
Looking ahead, the future of very light jets is positive if a bit
hazy. For Honeywell, the "very light personal" moniker encompasses the likes of the Eclipse 500, Adam 700, Diamond Jet, Cirrus' The-Jet, and more. Examples of a "very light jet," in Honeywell's view,
include the Cessna Mustang, HondaJet and Embraer Phenom 100 and other jets costing more than $2.5 million. Honeywell has conducted survey research and sees a total demand potential of 6,000-7,000 very
light personal jets over a ten year period, plus 3,300 of the pricier very light jets. The company's view of the air taxi business remains guarded, seeing that segment as one yet to be proven.
Honeywell's research leads the company to believe that an additional two thousand very light personal jets may be added to that segment's total as components of fractional ownership companies,
or as the core fleet aircraft of air taxi operations -- stretching the overall demand over ten years to 8,000-9,000 through 2017. But as for actual use of the personal jets, "We see them as
entrepreneurally flown," said Honeywell spokesperson Bill Reavis. "We survey 14,000 flight departments worldwide and they don't even list VLJs," said Reavis. "They are looking for a three-to-five
person capacity, longer range and a potty."
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