Jet Advisors Blog

Why Buy or Lease a Fractional Share?

Posted on Thu, Sep 11,2014

Comfortable flyingIf you fly privately there are many options to choose from, ranging from ones with little commitment (meaning relatively low cost and no long term contract) to ones with greater commitment (meaning higher cost and long term contract or ownership).

Charter is great for the occasional flyer but are you paying only for the time you are on the aircraft. In most cases the answer is no unless you get on the aircraft at its home base to fly to your destination and return in a relatively short time, usually 24 hours. If your trip starts anyplace other than the aircraft home base your charge will include positioning the aircraft to pick you up, flying you to your destination and then repositioning the aircraft back to its base. Another thing about charter is the supply of aircraft is mostly random, you make your request by asking for a class of aircraft (light, medium, super medium or large) not by the type of aircraft (such as a Cessna Citation Excel). Snacks stocked on the aircraft are normally included but not catering if you want more or the length of trip dictates it.

If you are a frequent flyer (200 plus hours a year) then you might consider the purchase of a whole aircraft. With whole aircraft operations, the more you fly reduces your per flight hour cost. Whole aircraft ownership guarantees consistency of the aircraft you fly but will it be right for each trip you want to take (too much or too little but it is all you have). Also if you are flying your own aircraft or it is parked in the hanger you incur costs like insurance, maintenance (maintenance is required if you fly it or not), hanger fees, crew salaries, crew training, depreciation, stocking and catering.  While charter has no commitment ownership does and depending on the aircraft market it may be hard to dispose of your aircraft (at least for the price you want).

Fractional aircraft ownership programs fall somewhere in between charter and whole aircraft ownership. There are several programs to choose from and range from turbo prop light models to large long range aircraft. However, today there are only two major fractional aircraft providers. While it is no secret that fractional programs are expensive (if you fly out and back trips on charter, fractional programs cannot match the charter cost) they do offer many attributes that program participates enjoy over charter and whole aircraft ownership.  The cost might be high but they are fixed and thus predictable. The larger fractional programs offer the ability to interchange to smaller or larger aircraft (normally on an as available basis) to match the seating capacity and range that is best for your trip but are priced at a premium. Catering that is reasonable for length of trip and passenger load is included as well as aircraft stocking. Maintenance, crew training, crew salaries, hanger fees are covered by your monthly or hourly fees. Should you elect to leave the fractional program after a contractual minimum term of ownership the fractional program guarantees to repurchase your fractional share in as little as 90 days. One other attribute most fractional users appreciate is the consistency in the type aircraft supplied and services provided (you know exactly where that bag of salted nuts or candy bars are).

Top Issues When Buying Fractional

Topics: fractional, fractional ownership, fractional share, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional co-owner, fractional light jets, fractional consulting, fractional travel

Fractional Programs: Do You Really Own a Piece of the Aircraft?

Posted on Wed, Aug 20,2014

describe the imageWhen the fractional ownership of aircraft concept was introduced over 30 years ago no one knew what it was or how it worked. I think the hardest concept of fractional aircraft ownership to grasp was the outright ownership or leasehold of a portion of a very expensive piece of equipment (whole values range from $5 Million for a used small cabin aircraft to $60 Million plus for a large cabin new aircraft). I know when I was new in the fractional aircraft business coming from an original equipment manufacturer it was a concept that took me awhile to master and then explain to prospects. Some describe fractional aircraft ownership as be similar to vacation timeshares and while there are similarities the two concepts/businesses are worlds apart.

Vacation timeshares do provide you with ownership of a tangible asset and most give you title to a specific unit that is recorded in a local government office (such as the County Recorder or Assessor) along with an agreement to share the cost of maintenance and upkeep of the property. The asset is divided normally by a unit of time such as a week so you have rights to the (your) property once a year for that specific week. Also your period of ownership of the property is determined by you and you can dispose of it to anyone you desire and some timeshare operators/managers provide the option to sell your property back to them.

However, with fractional aircraft ownership or leasehold you acquire an undivided percentage interest in a specific aircraft (not a wing or an engine) and the size of the interest determines how much use of the aircraft (flight hours) you have during a 12 month period. If you purchase an interest this is documented by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill of sale and a FAA application for registration, both of which are filed with the FAA in Oklahoma City and specify that you own an undivided interest in a specific whole aircraft. If you have a leasehold interest in an aircraft, this is evidenced by the filing of the lease with the local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and is supposed to be carried on the aircraft that it is associated with during all flights. Unlike vacation timeshares, your term of ownership of the interest in the aircraft or your leasehold of an aircraft is for a preset period of time, normally five (5) years, and you are limited to who you can sell your aircraft share to and limited to who you can assign your leasehold to by the fractional aircraft program providers terms and conditions. Even though you own your undivided interest in the aircraft, if you sell it to a third party or sell it back to the fractional aircraft program manager there are fees and potential penalties.

So, yes you do own a piece of an aircraft (not just a wing or an engine) but you are limited to what you can do with your share when it comes time to dispose of it.

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Topics: fractional, fractional ownership, private jet, fractional share, private jets, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional co-owner, fractional light jets, fractional consulting, fractional travel

What Size Share is Right for You?

Posted on Mon, Jun 09,2014

Aircraft on RunwayIf you have ever flown on a private aircraft for business, fun, with friends or family you know how hassle free and downright great it can be. No metal detectors, TSA, taking your shoes off, long lines, delayed or canceled flights and you determine what airports to start and end your trip and what time you depart. There are so many great aspects of private aircraft travel (they are hard to list them all), no wonder it can be so addictive.

One way to get all the benefits of private aircraft travel without the inherent hassles of full aircraft ownership is through a fractional aircraft program. Fractional aircraft programs, just as the name suggests, provide the benefits of aircraft use without buying a whole aircraft, employing a crew and maintenance personnel, renting a hanger, etc. Most fractional aircraft programs offer shares as small as a 6.25% undivided interest of a specific aircraft in their fleet and this usually equates to 50 occupied flight hours (before a deduction for taxi time) per year and since the agreements with the provider normally have 5-year terms, 250 occupied flight hours over the term. If you need or feel you need more flight hours you can add on 3.125% incremental shares (25 flight hours per year) with no cap on how many shares you can acquire other than your bank account limits.

Now the big question is what size share do you buy or lease? Several of us at Jet Advisors® have seen on numerous occasions a new entrant into the fractional ownership program field buy or lease more than they really need. This usually results from underestimating how flying privately is so much more efficient than traveling by commercial means and unfortunately fractional sales people are not always motivated to make sure the share size fits the new share owner’s needs. Add to this the structure of fractional programs that lock you in for a certain minimum period that prevents you from reducing your share without significant penalties. The economics of fractional programs get skewed quickly in a very negative way if you leave unused (un-flown) hours in your bank at the end of each year.

What can you do to prevent acquiring a larger share than you need? My advice is start with acquiring the smallest share available in the aircraft type you desire or buy a jet card, which most fractional programs provide. Since, as I stated above, you can add onto your share in 25 hour per year increments as your usage grows or you determine your exact need, start off small. Going into a larger share than needed will cost you money, and not just a little money. Trying a 25 hour card has per hour costs higher than acquiring a share but it will give you a good idea on how efficient private aircraft travel is and how many hours you need to cover your annual travel without a long term commitment.

Topics: fractional, fractional ownership, fractional share, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional co-owner, fractional light jets, fractional consulting, fractional travel

Combining Private Jet Travel with Commercial Airline Travel

Posted on Mon, Apr 28,2014

Plane over mountainsYou are looking forward to that special ski trip, or summer hiking trip, to Aspen from your home in New York City (NYC) with the family and you do not want to waste time or money getting there, what do you do? You have several options, but not all of them really make sense for your trip. Driving is probably the least expensive, but do you want to use up four days of your time off getting there and returning home not to mention the hassle of the drive through the mountains of Colorado and potential for poor driving conditions (at least in the winter). So flying is the only sensible option.

While flying is the most efficient and quickest way to get to Aspen and then back home to NYC there are no direct flights to Aspen from NYC, or for the return. While this may not be a surprise with today’s commercial air travel system, this trip will involve at least one stop and in many cases two stops (one airline stops at Washington Dulles and again in Denver), probable aircraft changes and 10+ hours of travel time. With the plane changes required, and the possibility of lost luggage, why not consider private jet/charter as an option? Flying by private jet will cut your travel time in about half, but few aircraft can make the NYC to Aspen leg non-stop which defeats part of the reason to consider private jets for this trip and can be expensive. There are some private jet aircraft that can perform the trip non-stop, but they are few and far between and can become exponentially more expensive.  In addition, you must make sure the provider is aware of your passenger load and any baggage that you are bringing since this will impact the performance (range and take-off and landing field length needed) of the supplied aircraft.

So what can you do to cut your travel time in the most cost effective and efficient way? My thought is to mix charter flying with commercial flying. Fly commercially to an airport that is relatively close to Aspen and then fly a private jet, or even a turboprop aircraft (if your commercial flight’s destination is close enough to Aspen to offset the slower aircraft speed of the turboprop). This scenario will be more expensive than the commercial trip all the way to Aspen, but you will save time and the potential hassles of an additional stop(s), plane change(s) and lost luggage (which we know happens frequently these days).  

Another thought would be in the case that another couple or family members are traveling to Aspen from some other location than NYC. Both groups could fly commercially to an airport that provides non-stop service from their point of origin and then fly together privately into Aspen. This would defray the cost for both groups for the trip. 

Topics: charter, charter flights, airports, commercial

Recognizing when a Deal is Too Good to be True

Posted on Fri, Apr 11,2014

Aircraft Discussion The old saying 'if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is' holds true in most instances. It can be especially costly to you in the field of aviation if you fly charter, use a fractional service or have a whole aircraft or share a whole aircraft.

Aircraft are rather unique vehicles for travel in that most others wear out and get retired, but with an aircraft, as long as they are inspected and maintained to their manufacturer’s and the governmental agency that oversees them requirements they don’t wear out, to a point. This is one area to be concerned with if you are looking to buy a whole aircraft or share a whole aircraft with partners. Older aircraft have lower acquisition costs as compared to newer like aircraft but as aircraft age the maintenance and inspections become progressively more intensive. So you pay less upfront but the costs to keep the aircraft airworthy are higher, much higher than a newer aircraft. Also with whole aircraft ownership your travel patterns can cost you more. If you fly somewhere and stay, do you ferry the aircraft back empty to its base or do you keep it with you. If you keep it with you what do you do with your crew? Do you pay for them to fly home or do you pay their hotel, meal and rental car costs while they stay. Keeping the aircraft with you may not be an option if you share the ownership with others.

If you share the aircraft with others, who gets first priority for its use? If you are second inline do you not travel or do you have to find alternative means at your expense? Keeping in mind even when you are not using your aircraft you still incur expenses for its upkeep, hangar, crew, insurance, etc. If you have lease financed the aircraft you own or share, what are the aircraft condition requirements (cosmetically and mechanically) at end of the lease term? These can be substantial.

With fractional programs and charter operators what is your real cost? Like todays pricing for airline travel there can be many “hidden” costs. When a fractional company provides a proposal to enter their program do they include the depreciation on your aircraft asset (50% or more over a five year term), fuel adjustment (usually over a thousand dollars per hour) to your advertised hourly rate, flight time minimums, or taxes in the proposal? With charter companies you can ask the same questions, is the quote all inclusive or are there hidden charges like crew overnight fees, hangar fees if the weather is bad at your destination and catering charges. With charter or fractional programs, what if you make last minute changes to your itinerary or cancel the flight? What if the air transportation provider is late or doesn’t show up at all, what is your recourse?

As stated above, if the deal being offered appears to be great (too good to be true) compared to your other options, you need to find out why.

Topics: jet card, charter, fractional, fractional ownership, charter flights, fractional share, private jets, jet lease, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional co-owner, jet co-owner, private jet co-owner, fractional light jets, fractional consulting

Quelling Nervous Flying

Posted on Thu, Mar 27,2014

Safe LandingIt matters if you fly commercially, or privately, if you are a nervous, or fearful flyer, to some extent. Most flyers (if you are not a pilot or the pilot for the flight) have some misgivings each time they fly, but some of us just resign ourslves to the fact that you need to fly and have little control over the many factors that could impact the flight.

Some factors that cause concern regardless of flying commercially, or privately, are obvious like the weather, over water flights, mountainous terrain, airports in the mountains and small airports (usually short narrow landing strips). Some are not so obvious but due to past accidents and the subsequent news reports still cause some concern. Some not so obvious concerns include security, aircraft maintenance condition, pilot complacency (dependence on automation versus pilot skills), pilot training and experience and pilot fatigue.

Outside influences such as hijacking, terrorist activities and the growing incidents of lasers pointed at cockpits are also thought about prior to flight by some. In private aviation hijacking and terrorist activities are unlikely but the threat from laser light (accidental or on purpose) is growing in the US and in Europe. After 9/11 and other previous horrible events (Lockerbie Scotland) commercial travelers were on edge and the recent “disappearance” of the Malaysian airliner has done little to quell those fears.

So how do you overcome your fears and what can you do? If you fly commercially there is little you can do to change a flight plan, the point of origin of the flight and the destination, checking the experience and training of the crews or the quality of the aircraft maintenance. These are all controlled by the airline. US airlines have a very enviable safety history; however you are still at their mercy when it comes to security check in, crowded aircraft and the unavoidable delays and cancellations. If you fly privately, either on your own aircraft, through a fractional program or by charter, it is a different story.

If you own or co-own the aircraft then you have firsthand knowledge of the crews experience and training and the maintenance status of the aircraft.  In addition, you pick departure and arrival location, times for the flight, who you fly with and most importantly you have the ability to terminate or not start a flight if there are any factors that bother you. If you participate in a fractional program you have the comfort factor (if your provider is one of the larger ones) that pilots are highly skilled and routinely trained, the aircraft is maintained as it should be (with a large staff overseeing such maintenance) and you have the ability to cancel or terminate the flight if you have a weather or other concern, however, you might get charged for the cancelled flight. With most charter operators they can provide you with their past histories and audit reports from independent aviation professionals and, as with fractional programs, you have the ability to cancel or delay flights for any reason but once again you may be charged for any itinerary changes or cancelations.

So what should you do? Do your homework on the method of air transportation you use and if using commercial stay vigilant. If you have your own aircraft make sure your crew knows your preferences and if you fly fractional or charter these companies usually build a profile on your likes and dislikes, make sure the profile is accurate.

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Topics: jet card, charter, fractional, fractional ownership, private jets, jet lease, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional co-owner, jet co-owner, private jet co-owner, fractional light jets, fractional consulting, airports, Nervous Flying, Malaysia

Danger in the Skies, Laser Pointers

Posted on Tue, Mar 11,2014

Plane at SunsetLaser pointers have been commercially available since the 1980s and are seen everywhere from boardrooms, classrooms, in tools, cat and dog toys and even in gas stations as novelties. So why would the FBI offer a $10,000 reward to anyone that helps them to apprehend and convict someone pointing one of these seemingly harmless devices at an aircraft?

Most laser pointers available to the public are pretty harmless if used as they are intended to be and care is made not to shine them in someone’s eyes from close up. However, the danger to aircraft operations comes from the strong concentrated light they emit, the spread of this light at distances and the potential to distract, startle, cause flash blindness and the concern of injury (but at distances the risk of injury is low, at least from the laser beam). Currently there are no commercially available lasers that can physically damage an aircraft and it is unknown and doubtful that there are military lasers that could.

When using a laser outside at night it appears the beam ends at a relatively short distance from the user but that is incorrect and the beam spreads at longer distance like an ordinary flash light. At one half of a mile the beam from a handheld laser spreads to approximately the size of a doorway. When the beam spreads it has the potential to reflect from aircraft windscreens similar to when you are driving at night and an oncoming car does not dim their lights. Aircraft cockpits are kept in low light and the brightness of a laser beam can temporarily blind the crew, not a good thing when flying straight and level but extremely dangerous during the takeoff or landing phase of flight.

Lasers used in laser shows are 6 watts and green in color (green is the preferred color since that color can be seen more easily by the human eye than other colors and are less expensive to manufacture). Even though the light spreads at distances a laser show style laser can reach over 368,000 feet (70 miles) and at that distance the main danger is distraction. At lesser distances the dangers increase, eye hazard at 1,700 feet, flash blindness at 8,700 feet (1.5 miles) and glare at 36,800 feet (7 miles).

Commercial hand held lasers are usually about 5 mW and green in color but even at this lower wattage eye hazard could occur at 52 feet, flash blindness up to 262 feet, glare up to 1,171 feet and distraction up to 11,712 feet.

As mentioned above, this issue is being taken seriously as incidents continue to increase. In 2013 there were 3,960 (average 11 per day) reported instances in the US (up from 1,416 in 2009) and over 4,266 (average 12 per day) in Europe. If you are caught and convicted you could face fines and possibly jail time. A man in California was sentenced to 30 months in jail for pointing a laser at an aircraft and just last week another California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for pointing a laser at a police helicopter. The second man’s girlfriend was also involved in the incident and is facing a $250,000 fine and 5 years in prision.


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Topics: jet card, charter, fractional, private jet, private jets, jet lease, airports, laser pointers

Private Jet Travel, Where do you Fly?

Posted on Thu, Feb 27,2014

Plane preparing for passengersOf the many benefits of private jet travel (setting your own schedule, choosing your fellow passengers, traveling with pets, selecting your desired departure location and arrival location, amongst others) one of the most critical ones to consider is your departure and/or arrival airport.

There are usually many options when it comes to airport selection, unless you are in a remote area of the United States or in areas that prevent exclude airport construction such as mountainous areas. While you may be traveling to or from an area with many options are they really viable options (meaning, are they safe and reasonable for your planned trip)?

Determining if an airport is safe may seem to be easily determined but there are many factors to consider. These factors include but are not limited to: runway length, runway width, the weight bearing capacity of the runway, runway condition (is it paved, gravel, dirt or grass and well maintained), altitude of the airport (the higher the altitude the greater the impact on the aircraft’s performance), obstructions around or close to the airport, weather conditions (unpredictable winds, down drafts, snow, ice and their impact on visibility), is it controlled or not (meaning are there onsite personnel to advise field condition, winds and to perform air traffic control) and are there any airport facilities such as a fixed base operator (FBO) for fuel and other services. In addition to the condition and location of the airport you have to consider the operational performance (or lack thereof) of your aircraft or your selected aircraft and the capabilities of the aircraft crew.

One example of a potentially challenging airport is the recent accident at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport in Colorado. This airport handles hundreds if not thousands of flights safely on an annual basis but presents a challenge for those flying into and out of there. The airport is located at a high altitude, has numerous obstructions, requires a steep approach and steep departure and crews are required to be certified for its use prior to flying there. There are others such as Yeager Airport in Charleston West Virginia, while it is controlled have large well maintained runways and good FBOs it was built on a mountain top with a cliff at either end of the runway, a small mistake could be catastrophic.

Even airports that meet all of the safety requirements might not be a good choice for your travel plans. If you use one of the large international airports, you can get stuck in the traffic when departing or arriving and they normally charge much higher fees for usage. Also some of the large international airports are not structured to accommodate the private flyer, so once on the ground or positioning for takeoff, you may have to taxi long distances to or from the FBO.

So when choosing an airport to use, safety should be the number one consideration, but you fly privately for convenience and efficiency and these have to also be factored into your decision process.

Topics: fractional, fractional ownership, fractional share, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional light jets, fractional consulting, fractional travel, airports

Understanding the Health of Your Fractional Program

Posted on Fri, Nov 01,2013

describe the image Participation in a fractional aircraft program is a good way to fly privately without buying a whole aircraft and covering the costs of such ownership if you do not fly more than 200/250 flight hours a year. Fractional ownership is not inexpensive but compared to the cost of owning and operating a whole aircraft for just 50/100 flight hours per year makes fractional programs somewhat of a bargain.

In the past almost all fractional programs were wholly owned subsidiaries of the manufacturer of the aircraft provided by the specific fractional provider. That has changed, today only one fractional provider is still owned by the aircraft manufacturer of the aircraft they use and this company is being sold to another fractional program not supported or owned by an aircraft manufacturer.

Does it matter if the fractional program is or is not owned by the aircraft manufacturer or other substantial corporation? Even if it is owned by the aircraft manufacturer or other corporate entity is that any guarantee of economic stability? Remember Lehman Brothers, who would have foresaw their demise? However, if it is a well-run and profitable fractional program I would say having a substantial parent is not necessary to insure stability. How can you tell if the fractional program is well run and profitable? On the financial side if it is a public company that reports its own financial condition then it is simple, but what if its results are combined with the parents reports? There are several signs that would provide indications that all may not be well at your fractional provider.

Some of the signs are appearance of the aircraft supplied (are they clean, in good repair with cabin convenience items functioning properly), is the aircraft supplied when and where requested, have flights been delayed or canceled without the offer of a backup aircraft, and are crews supplied professional and appear satisfied with their employment (pilots are usually pretty candid about their employer and how things are going with their company). Another sign that could indicate potential problems are the level of the fees charged for your participation in the fractional program and for flights taken. This will take a little homework but all fractional programs have web sites that usually contain their product pricing and there are other aviation related sites that provide costs of operation for specific aircraft types. Are your fees higher, about the same or lower as compared to other programs or as compared to published operational costs? It is OK to have lower costs and fees but are they so low that your fractional program is unsustainable. If your program is unsustainable at the costs and fees charged you should have concerns on safety of the aircraft and its operation and the return on your investment.

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Topics: fractional, fractional ownership, fractional share, private jets, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional co-owner, fractional light jets

Fractional Ownership, Who Owns the Parts on Your Aircraft

Posted on Tue, Oct 01,2013

fractional programThis may seem a strange topic but aircraft fractional ownership programs usually operate like commercial airlines when it comes to aircraft maintenance and rotable parts (the term the industry uses for parts that can be repaired or overhauled for repeated use). Rotable parts can range from minor parts to major components such as engines, landing gear and, in the case of a turbo prop, propellers. When I say fractional programs operate like commercial airlines when it comes to maintenance I mean they maintain pools of rotable parts so when a part is needed it is pulled out of the pool, placed on the aircraft and the unserviceable or out of time part sent for repair or overhaul. Then, when that part is returned following repair or overhaul it is placed into the pool for use later on another aircraft.

In small flight departments, most times when a part is returned following repair or overhaul it is put back on the aircraft it originally come from, especially if it is a major component. Not so in the fractional program since demand for and use of the aircraft is at a premium and it is time consuming to put original parts and components back where they came from. So the fractional programs pool all parts, minor to major, and after a few years none of the original parts and components are where they started life.

So why should you care? If you are an owner (as the fractional programs refer to their customers) and you are in one of the larger and financially solvent programs you shouldn’t, your main concern is that the program provider is maintaining the aircraft as required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the aircraft manufacturer’s recommendations. However, if you are in a smaller program with less than spectacular financials you may have some concerns. What if the company goes bankrupt or otherwise goes out of business? You own an asset (or part of one) but what do you do with it? I see only two real options, one is to try to sell your fractional interest for the best price and the other is to try to purchase the whole aircraft from the other fractional interest owners.

If you elect to try and sell your interest to the highest bidder then it is fairly straight forward for you but probably not for the buyer. If you elect to try and purchase all the other interests so you own 100% of the aircraft and succeed what do you get? The airframe side of it is easy but what about the minor to major rotable parts and components (an airframe becomes an aircraft when all the components great and small are added). I would not worry about the small parts as long as you have documentation as to their serviceability but the major items like the engines and if a turbo prop the propellers can become a big and expensive issue. Most of the fractional programs used to identify specific serialized engines (and propellers for turbo props) with each airframe but now are moving to identifying a specific make and model engine (and propellers) but not by serial numbers. Why would this be an issue? If the specific serial numbers were identified or there is a bankruptcy then you would need to get your engines back (propellers too if turbo prop). Where are they? Best case they are in good serviceable condition but sitting in stock or on another aircraft. Worst case they were sent out for repair or overhaul and there is a bill to be paid before the repair facility will release them or they are on another aircraft in the fractional fleet. If they are on another aircraft you have to pay to have the engines on your aircraft removed, the ones that are yours removed from the aircraft they are on and then to have them installed on yours. If they were out for repair or sitting in stock, you will still have to pay to remove the engines on your aircraft and install your engines.

Topics: fractional, fractional ownership, fractional share, fractional program, fractional jet program, fractional co-owner, fractional light jets