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But my guess is that empty flights - to get aircraft where and when - they're needed must still present a problem.

Fractional jet share operators have to factor in the cost of flights to reposition aircraft and crews somehow. Some of it probably counts as usage within the hours allocated to each fractional share, and some of it undoubtedly is mitigated by the fact that one customer will want to go to a location from which another customer wants to depart at about the same time, or at least a location that's close enough so the "dead head" to reposition the plane and the flight crew is short. Also, the wording of the customers' "fractional ownership" contracts can provide flexibility by requiring the customers to specify time windows of several hours in duration rather than specific times.

I also get the impression fractional operators don't pay their pilots commercial pilot salaries and pension benefits.

They probably pay their pilots about the same as employed by private and corporate owners to operate the same model of aircraft. The pay probably does include provisions for a retirement plan, but the pilots normally will move to commercial airlines when they gain enough experience to do so.

Note that commercial airlines typically pay their pilots on a pay scale that's linked to the size of the aircraft that they fly, with larger aircraft paying more than smaller aircraft fot the corresponding positions (a "captain" on a smaller aircraft often making more than a "first officer" on a larger aircraft). Private jets are simply at the smaller end of such a scale.

You'll see more turboprops in North America if fuel costs rise dramatically in the years ahead.

Not if a significant percentage of passengers refuse to fly on them!

Passengers also avoid regional jets due to the perception at least, that they're cramped and less comfortable than larger commercial jet aircraft.

Perhaps, but any passengers who shun regional jets for this reason most assuredly do not choose turboprops instead.

Any aircraft that flies shorter routes will experience some suceptability to turbulence because it can't easily attain the altitude required to avoid it.

I have flown enough to know that the turbulence sometimes occurs at higher altitudes and that the plane needs to get under it.

But more fundamentally, some aircraft are a lot more susceptible to turbulence than others, and it has nothing to do with size. The Canadair Regional Jet line has very low susceptibility. I have flown across the Rocky Mountains -- an area well known for bad turbulence -- in both directions within a couple hours, when the actual conditions did not change much, so I'm speaking from personal experience on this.

A lot of the problem for turboprops involves perception versus the facts. Historically, turboprops have been much noisier than newer models such as Bombardier's QSeries with its proprietary noise-cancellation technology.

I know that Bombardier advertises that its Q Series of turboprops have some sort of system that cancels noise, and that it is much quieter than the previous series of DeHavilland tuboprops, but I doubt that the noise cancellation system is perfect. Suppression of the "thump-thump-thump" produced by propeller blades passing in front of the wing is exceedingly difficult.

In any case, I suspect that the Canadair Regional Jet line, which has a longstanding reputation as one of the quietest aircraft in the skies, is far quieter than the Q Series. Air traffic controllers have long boasted that they could send Canadair Regional Jets "anywhere" -- even on low approaches over residential neighborhoods in the middle of the night -- with no worries that residents would call to complain about noise.

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