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Wed, May 31, 2023

Jet It Reportedly Closing Down

The Bigger They Are …

North Carolina-based charter and fractional ownership concern Jet It—the world’s 12th largest private jet operator by the metrics of charter and fractional flight hours—is reportedly shuttering the entirety of its flight operations.

On Friday, 19 May, Jet It initiated a safety stand-down in the wake of an 18 May Summerville, South Carolina (DYB) runway excursion involving a private HondaJet operator.

On 26 May, Jet It informed its employees by way of letter that the company was closing down and their jobs were permanently terminated.

Over the ensuing days, Jet It CEO Glenn Gonzalez allegedly offered fractional owners of the company’s HondaJet, Gulfstream G150, and Embraer Phenom 300 aircraft four equally unattractive options:

  • Be patient with us [Jet It].
  • Customers’ airplanes may be transferred to alternative operators’ certificates.
  • Customers’ airplanes may be sold.
  • Owners may operate their aircraft by contracting furloughed Jet It pilots directly.

Some Jet It fractional owners were reportedly provided estimates of their aircrafts’ current market value(s).

Mr. Gonzales has ascribed blame for his company’s failure to HondaJet exclusively, claiming the plane-maker’s Honda HA-420 HondaJet is inherently flawed. Gonzales cited a total of twenty runway-overrun or runway incursion instances involving HondaJets since the model’s 2015 introduction.

Mr. Gonzales’s allegations were subsequently condemned by the HondaJet Owners & Pilots Association (HJOPA), a group representing HondaJet owners.

In a letter to HJOPA members, association executive director Julie Hughes wrote: “There have been several incidents of HondaJet runway excursions and overruns. While we are still gathering data on these incidents, we are taking immediate steps to address this significant safety concern. In light of these occurrences, we have initiated planning for an important initiative—the safety stand-down. We anticipate this event as a pivotal opportunity to enhance our safety practices collectively.”

In an accompanying video, Ms. Hughes stated eight instances of HondaJet runway excursions and overruns had occurred in the preceding 12 months, explaining she sought merely to address “the recent rise in incidents and accidents involving our HondaJet aircraft.”

Ms. Hughes’s letter continued: “It’s critical that we do not jump to conclusions or make unfounded assumptions. Instead, we are allowing the data to inform us about this concerning trend within our platform.”

Ms. Hughes stated she was surprised to learn of Mr. Gonzalez’s email, stating: “We have not communicated with Jet It on this issue and were surprised to see them inaccurately characterize our position. We do not want to ground the airplane. We believe the airplane is safe. We want to use data from the incidents as a basis for enhancing pilot training and decision-making. In no way do we think the HondaJet should be grounded.”

In a written statement addressing the dispute, a HondJet spokesperson set forth: “Jet It’s decision to ground their HondaJet fleet was made independently by Jet It. Importantly, neither Honda Aircraft Company nor any aviation authority has recommended this grounding. Therefore, we have no comment about the decision by Jet It to ground its fleet.”

The statement continued: “Honda Aircraft Company is actively supporting the investigation of a recent accident of a customer aircraft on May 18, 2023, at Summerville Airport (DYB), Summerville, South Carolina. The accident did not result in any injuries, but as the investigation is ongoing, we do not have further details to share at this time. Honda Aircraft Company holds the safety and reliability of our aircraft as our top priorities, and our dedicated team is working closely with the NTSB and FAA to determine the cause of this occurrence and to implement any necessary measures.”

The HondaJet spokesperson’s statement concluded: “In all closed investigations of previous runway events, investigators found no causal factors from the aircraft’s design or any system malfunction. Our engineering and analysis supports our product as a safe aircraft to operate. As a result, Honda Aircraft Company will continue all of its flight activities under normal operation.”

Gonzalez and HondaJet have been at odds since October 2022, when Jet It disclosed its intentions to adopt Embraer’s Phenom 300 platform.

In a November 2022 email to fractional owners regarding sales calls pertaining to Jet It’s new Embraer offering, Gonzalez blasted Honda and the HondaJet, alleging the HondaJet HA-420 aircraft was unreliable and characterizing the OEM’s support of the jet as “grossly inadequate.”

A number of Jet It aircraft owners have reportedly queried Mr. Gonzales vis-à-vis the safety stand-down, inquiring after the possibility the measure had been enacted for financial reasons.

One owner went so far as to state: “It sounds like you’re bankrupt to me.”

Asked to respond to accusations that financial problems, not safety concerns, had precipitated the grounding of Jet It’s fleet, Mr. Gonzales declined to comment.

Competing aircraft fractional ownership concerns Volato and Jet Token—both of which feature and operate the HondaJet—remain confident in the model and continue to operate such as a matter of convention.

In a written statement, Jet Token’s Chairman remarked: “We are confident in the well-established safety record of the HondaJet; we have operated the aircraft for years under FAA Part 135 with great success (and without incident). At Jet Token, we put safety first and could not ask for a more committed partner to safety than HondaJet.”

Volato CEO Matt Liotta asserted in a written statement of his own: “Volato is confident in the HondaJet platform and our ability to operate the aircraft safely. Our safety standards and procedures are designed to reduce risk. We operate under FAA Part 135 flight standards that are more restrictive and provide an extra margin of safety versus the Part 91 regulations used by some operators.”

Mr. Liotta’s statement continued: “Volato has operated more than seven-thousand flights under varying weather conditions safely and believes its rigorous pilot training and professional operating standards will continue to set the bar for safe and reliable HondaJet operations. The recent incident involving a HondaJet runway excursion at Summerville airport on May 18 has led to conjecture questioning the aircraft’s safety and performance. Volato uses a conservative approach to calculate the required runway length and would have assumed this runway was contaminated with standing water which would require more distance to safely stop for all aircraft.  For this reason, landing at Summerville Airport under those conditions would not have met Volato’s safety standards.”

Mr. Liotta concluded: “Recognizing our leadership role within the HondaJet community, Volato will now invite third-party participants to our annual safety summit, granting access to our unique safety systems, standards, and curriculum.”

According to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), “Runway excursions remain one of the most significant concerns in the industry plaguing novices and professionals alike.”

Notwithstanding Mr. Gonzales’s claims to the contrary, the symptoms of Jet It’s financial maladies are myriad and compelling. Lease payments on the primary, Greensboro, North Carolina hangar in which the company archives its aircraft logbooks are reportedly many months in arrears. The property’s owners are said to have locked Jet It out of the facility pending payment. Gonzales refuted the report, however, contending: “Airport access was returned to the hangar owner in conjunction with the furlough as the airports are controlled areas.”

Additionally, of the 21 HondaJets managed by Jet It, at least ten are currently languishing in maintenance, while another three have been saddled with liens for unpaid maintenance bills. An undisclosed MRO stated it is holding one Jet It aircraft insomuch as the company refuses to pay the aircraft’s $24,000 bill.

Jet It is said to owe Honda Aircraft north of $1.6-million.

What’s more, two Jet It aircraft sales executives are reportedly owed upwards of $200,000 apiece by the company.

Speaking to the subject of Jet It’s ostensible shuttering, aviation attorney David Hernandez asserted: “A crisis situation requires immediate and comprehensive analysis.  Unfortunately, most owners simply believe a crisis will never occur, and, frankly, many have never thoroughly read their program agreements.  As a result, most owners are simply unprepared to handle most crises when they arise.”

Mr. Hernandez counseled: “Determine all available options based on the relevant circumstances, create a resolution plan, and immediately execute the plan. Act fast because available rights and remedies evolve rapidly in a crisis situation, and those who delay may be left with nothing.”

Mr. Hernandez cautioned against reliance upon aircraft brokers, opining: “Brokers and consultants … [their] primary concern is not to protect your rights under the program agreements.”

FMI: www.hjopa.org

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