Mobility faster than the speed of sound
Five years ago, if someone told you they worked in ‘mobility’ you would assume that they flogged scooters to geriatrics. Now the term is used by companies doing everything from: autonomous car software to helicopters (Blade Mobility) and hailing taxis to $125m supersonic jets.
This week Aerion signed what it called an “expansive Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NetJets and FlightSafety International” two sister Berkshire Hathaway companies. Aerion says it will “shape the future of global mobility.” It says that NetJets and Aerion will “explore an exclusive partnership for the global mobility platform, Aerion Connect.
“Aerion Connect will integrate multiple, currently siloed urban and regional networks and provide a seamless point-to-point travel experience, optimised for speed and luxury across multiple modes of transportation,” says the company.
It is unclear what this “exclusive partnership” means – and if it impacts the Flexjet order for 20 AS2s placed in 2015. This could be as simple as NetJets operating the Aerion demo fleet or perhaps an Aerion airline operated by NetJets.
NetJets has agreed what Aerion calls “purchase rights” for 20 AS2 supersonic business jets – worth $2.4bn at list price. FlightSafety International has agreed to establish a new global Supersonic Training Academy.
“As the leader in private aviation, we constantly look for ways to be on the cutting-edge and expanding our fleet to become the exclusive business jet operator for Aerion Connect is a thrilling next step,” said Adam Johnson, chairman and CEO, NetJets Inc.
There is a lot of good will towards Aerion. Lots of people would like to see supersonic aircraft and the engineering team led by Richard Tracey is world class. The company has also moved on significantly with Tom Vice, chairman, president and CEO, heavily involved in this agreement. Aerion says it now has an order backlog of more than $10bn. It is planning to start production in 2023 at its new Melbourne, Florida facility with the first flight in 2025. Not surprisingly Aerion has been approached by at least one Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC).
It is easy to be sceptical about “purchase rights” rather than hard orders, but NetJets makes it credible. The fractional has taken delivery of more than 385 factory-new jets since 2012 – against firm commitments of 225.
NetJets is more interested in buying new aircraft than companies – but its biggest competitors are looking at both. Flexjet parent Directional has already agreed to buy helicopter operator Associated Aircraft Group (AAG) from Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky unit in January. Wheels Up is partly floating to help it acquire other companies. JetLinx, which is definitely one to watch, is openly looking for acquisitions to follow on from Meridian last year.
This week Vista Global acquired leading charter broker Apollo Jets. Vista Group says that Apollo will add 4,000 new clients to its XO platform. It is Vista Group’s fourth acquisition following on from Red Wing Aviation in 2020, JetSmarter in 2019 and XOJET in 2018.
Vista Group already called itself “the largest on-demand private aviation group”. With the Apollo acquisition, it now says that “Vista Global is the world’s largest subscription-based business aviation community.”
We could argue that this (admittedly free) newsletter has more members. But we see ourselves as “the largest business aviation mobility community.” Particularly if a SPAC wants to buy us.