[Avionics Today 02-08-2016] The U.S.-based arm of NetJets is preparing to introduce Cessna's Citation Latitude into its fleet of more than 700 business jets this summer. NetJets executives told Avionics Magazine that the Latitude will serve as a replacement for its Citation Sovereign and Hawker 800 XP aircraft.
NetJets Signature Series Cessna Citation Latitude. Photo: NetJets.
At the end of January, NetJets placed the first of two demonstrator Cessna Citation Latitudes into its Signature Series fleet. The business aviation operator, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, placed an order for up to 150 Cessna Citation Latitudes in 2012, with 25 firm orders and options for 125 more.
"We had a record year in 2015, in terms of the number of aircraft that we sold," Patrick Gallagher, executive vice president of sales and marketing at NetJets, told Avionics Magazine. “Several years ago we announced the largest number of aircraft orders in the history of private aviation with close to $17 billion worth of future orders. When you see a lot of the noise at events such as NBAA — where a lot of companies make announcements of new aircraft that they’re taking — and then if you follow them several years down the road, you see how few aircraft of these orders actually get to their fleet.”
According to Berkshire Hathaway's third quarter 2015 earnings report, revenues for NetJets increased by 5 percent when compared to the first three quarters of 2014. The company has not yet reported full-year results for 2015. Gallagher said that one of the ways NetJets has demonstrated success in private air travel in recent years is by going above and beyond the firm aircraft order commitments that it has previously announced.
"The thing that really demonstrates our success more so than anything else is [that] we are not just executing against those deliveries that we announced, we are executing against those options over and above the orders that were placed. We are very proud of that, being able to pre-sell aircraft many months ahead of delivery and our business has continued to grow," said Gallagher.
According to Cessna, the Latitude has an operating range of 2,850 nautical miles (nm), maximum cruise speed of 446 ktas, and features the touch screen Garmin G5000 avionics package in the cockpit.
NetJets first started adding Wi-Fi to its aircraft in 2010, and Gallagher said that the perception of onboard Internet as a luxury is a thing of the past for its operations.
“The NetJets 360 communication package is powered by Gogo and includes our Wi-Fi technology as well as our text-and-talk capability, which is an app that you can download on your phone. Then, while you are in the air, use it to tap into the aircraft Wi-Fi to use your own device to send and receive phone calls and send and receive text messages using your own number and your own phone via the plane’s Wi-Fi," said Gallagher. "It’s amazing how fast the landscape changed where it went from being a nicety to an absolute must have." he added.
On the avionics side, Ty Kronk, vice president of maintenance at NetJets, told Avionics Magazine that the company's philosophy behind investing in avionics technology is to stay fairly close to what the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) features in the standard configuration.
"From the maintenance aspect and long-term durability of the systems, we are not deviating from what the typical manufacturer specs on any particular cabin. With avionics, engines [Auxiliary Power Unit] APU choices that the manufacturer makes, we try to be close with that but we don’t deviate from anything that they are going to certify the aircraft with. Along those lines it’s more in the overall choice to purchase the aircraft; in this case, they are installing Garmin so we are not going to go out and try to retrofit the Latitude with a different system," said Kronk.
However, Kronk does note that there are certain avionics features and capabilities that they consider especially valuable on the Latitude and other modern aircraft within the fleet right now.
"We are looking into things now a lot more in terms of maintainability: the screens being able to be interchangeable, that becomes a big deal. We want to have good access to parts; we want it to be easy to upgrade both in components as well as software. The avionics systems today are reaching further into the aircraft, and one of the big things that we are looking for — it’s a little less avionics specific but certainly it’s done through the avionics — is what data can we get off the airplane both in-flight and during trouble-shooting events. Anything we can do to reduce the out-of-service time on the aircraft improves the service for our owners," said Kronk.
NetJets expects to start fractional aircraft deliveries for the Latitude early this summer, and will also be placing a second Latitude demonstrator aircraft in Europe later this year.