The recession that crippled the business jet industry also hurt Wichita's biggest customers for aircraft — the fractional-ownership providers.
Last year, a slump in sales forced fractional providers to delay and cancel jet orders, lay off pilots and, in the case of Jet Republic, go out of business entirely.
Michael Riegel, who advises fractional-jet customers, said 2009 was the worst year the industry has ever seen.
"By a wide margin," said Riegel, who owns AviationIQ.
Fractional companies bought 10 to 15 percent of all business jets delivered in each of the past 10 years, UBS Securities estimates. Cessna Aircraft and Hawker Beechcraft products represent more than 70 percent of the fractional fleet.
NetJets — the biggest buyer of Wichita-built business jets and the largest fractional-ownership company — canceled a $2.6 billion jet order with Hawker Beechcraft last month. NetJets also has canceled orders with Cessna and some manufacturers outside Wichita.
Providers and observers say the market appears to have stabilized, and consumers are starting to return. But they're doing so at lower levels.
Still, many experts agree that changes to the fractional model are needed.
"I think one of the benefits of coming out of this bubble bursting is that it will probably be a better industry," said David Sokol, chairman and CEO of NetJets. "It creates an atmosphere where everybody has to sit back and say . . . let's figure out where it should be."
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