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A Dassault Falcon 2000, a Maybach luxury auto, and freshly swept stairs: NetJets set up this publicity shot in Switzerland, but for fractional jet owners, such fantasy is the reality. (Markus Herzig)

Ride-Sharing With the Rich

How fractional jet owners get out of flying coach

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The company these days averages 330 flights a day, up slightly from 2010, but still down from a high of approximately 400 three years ago, says Henneberry.

Banking on economic good times ahead, NetJets is building a corporate headquarters complex across the road from its present operations center in Columbus. It has also embarked on a plan to modernize its fleet: Last year the company announced that it will buy as many as 125 Phenom 300 light business jets from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer, a deal that could be worth more than $1 billion. Then in March, NetJets placed an order for up to 120 Bombardier Global business jets worth in excess of $6.7 billion.

Upgrading its air fleet may well help position the company for future success, but no gains, says Bill Noe, can ever be realized without the kind of Gumby-like flexibility that he believes allows NetJets’ employees to take on and solve the Rubik’s Cube-like challenge that running an airline on demand represents. Noe admits that the process, with all its unforeseen variables, can often prove baffling even to him."I know exactly what we do," Noe muses, "and sometimes, I don’t know how we do it."

David Freed is a screenwriter, instrument-rated private pilot, and former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, where he shared in a Pulitzer Prize. His first novel, Flat Spin — a mystery-thriller featuring Cordell Logan, a former Air Force pilot turned civilian flight instructor — will be published next April.

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