Very Light Jets: An Overview for Pilots
NBAA defines Very Light Jets as "Jet aircraft weighing 10,000 pounds or less maximum certificated takeoff weight and certificated for single pilot operations. These aircraft will possess at least some of the following features: (1) advanced cockpit automation, such as moving map GPS and multi-function displays; (2) automated engine and systems management; and (3) integrated auto flight, autopilot and flight-guidance systems."
NASA and the aviation industry converged on this great VLJ idea for different reasons. This VLJ concept was inspired on the government side by their desire to improve air traffic flow around our major hub airports by utilizing the 5,400 smaller "satellite" airports around the country. Many of these satellite airstrips fell into disuse with the advent of jet aircraft, which required longer runways to operate from. That is how we wound up with crowded major airports serving cold coffee and lost luggage.
Who is buying VLJs? Charter and Air-Taxi companies are getting the most attention. (Note that the air-taxi passenger pays for one way and the charter customer pays the round trip and seldom actually makes the return trip.) Progressively smaller corporations are placing orders and the boss can now take middle management along on their VLJ to save time and make more money. Individuals and pilot/owners also make up a good portion of sales.
How big is this Very Light Jet phenomenon? The dozen odd manufacturers are already reporting advance sales of nearly 3,000 units with deliveries starting now. Forecasts range from 3,000 VLJs flying in the next century to a blackening of the skies with VLJs. The truth is probably in the middle.
How will these machines affect our world as commercial pilots? There is well deserved interest in this biz jet phenomenon called VLJs from all quarters. Our low time brothers want to know if this is the ticket to the hours they need to fly big iron; retired and retiring pilots from 121 carriers want to know if this is a way they can keep their hand in the cockpit; part 91 and 135 experienced pilots are looking for their place in this new category of aircraft.
None of the jet makers are on exactly the same arrival procedure in their trek toward manufacture and delivery. Everyone in the game--manufacturers, the FAA, and insurers, seem to be paralyzed over the training standardization issue while the jets are selling at a fevered pitch. The situation is further complicated by the need fora subjective standardization of pilot experience so that training standards could be decided upon. In the past, the type rating was the deciding factor. You got one and you were good to go. Now there are VLJ pilot/owners with an array of flight experience to consider.
The term "mentor pilot" is being floated to describe what we all immediately recognize as IOE instructor. Here is a comprehensive report regarding training requirements and mentor pilots written by William Welbourne of Alianz Agency:
This report reflects the clear thinking of three manufacturers in regards to their training programs. It is very early in the delivery schedule of the VLJs and few of the training programs are solidified. The instructor pilot, or mentor, will definitely play a decisive role in the future of this new category of aircraft.
It is important to note that although the feds have the final say, the insurance industry has the sway in what is ultimately acceptable as to acceptability of a pilot to fly in a given plane. VLJs did not invent this phenomenon. It has been a reality of business and commercial aviation for centuries "if you can't get it insured you can't buy it or fly it.
There are thirteen or more manufacturers in the Very Light Jet game right now with a couple under the radar for now. Each one of these companies has to deal with the training devil. Each and every one of them will have to get something that the insurance industry accepts before they can get traction enough to support their visions with substantial sales numbers.
VLJAir-Taxi Operator Progress Report
by David Whitmore, www.airtaxiworld.com
With no VLJ yet in air taxi service, itcomes down to the question, which air taxi operators plan to use which VLJ? Here's an overview.
The first air taxi service anticipating VLJ operations is DayJet (www.dayjet.com),which plans a mid-2007 start in Florida with the Eclipse 500, then expanding into the southeast and beyond.
Linear Air (www.linearair.com),already operating in the northeast with propeller aircraft, has theEclipse 500 on order for its fleet.
Imagine Air (www.flyimagineair.com)in Georgia has also chosen the Eclipse 500 for its operations.
Point2Point Airways (www.flyp2p.com)in North Dakota will be acquiring Diamond Aircraft's single engine D-jet.
Magnum Jet (www.magnumjet.com),preferring to call its service "air limousine," plans on the Adam Aircraft A700 and Embraer's Phenom 100 for its fleet to operate from Million Air's established FBO locations around the country.
That covers operators with published plans for specific VLJs. There are a few whose choices are not yet decided or revealed: POGO (www.flypogo.com)in the northeast, Pl!mo (not a typo error) (www.flyplimo.com)in the DC/VA/MD area, and Pronto Jet (www.prontojet.com).
Cessna's Citation Mustang, first of the small jets with FAA Production Certification, is notably missing in this list, perhaps because it is said not to be targeting the air taxi market and considers this model to be an entry-level jet (not a VLJ).
Breakdown of Operators by Type
Type I: Operators who own or controleverything; the aircraft, pilots, reservations
DayJet (www.dayjet.com)- Eclipse largest known customer
Linear Air (www.linearair.com)(northeast) - has ordered Eclipses
Magnum Jet (www.magnumjet.com)- plans to use Adam A700s and Embraer Phenom 100s
POGO (www.flypogo.com)(northeast) - is still in decision mode about which VLJ to use
Point2Point Airways (www.flyp2p.com)(north central) - has signed a deal with Diamond to acquire D-Jet when available
Way To Go (www.waytogoair.com)(west) Â? plans to use Eclipses
YourJet (www.flyyourjet.com)- undecided on choice of VLJ
Type II: Brokers, network operations, or aggregators who contract with various aircraft owners, and have reservation systems to marry them to flying passengers
OneSky (www.onesky.com)(USA+) - plans to integrate VLJs into their operations
OpenTaxi Systems (www.opentaxi.com)(USA) - system under development (formerly Penguin Airlines)
TaxiJet (www.taxijet.com)(USA+) - just opened; plan to integrate VLJs into their operations
Contact the respective manufacturers as to their mentor pilot requirements. The situation is changing daily.
Single-Engine VeryLight Jets
Diamond D-JET Diamond Aircraft Industries- London, Ontario, Canada Price $1.38M US with notable options of built-in Parachute and Radar Speed 315 kias NBAA IFR Range 1350Deliveries 2008 http://diamondair.com/mainpage.php
PiperJet Piper Aircraft Corp. Vero Beach, Florida USA Price $2.2MSpeed 360 kias NBAA IFR Range 1300Deliveries 2010SportUtility Jet http://www.newpiper.com
Others VLJs in the single-engine group include Cirrus Design Cirrus Jet, Excel-Jet Sport-Jet, and Maverick SoloJet.
Twin-Engine Very Light Jets
Adam A700- Adam Aircraft Industries- Englewood, Colorado USA Price $2.0MSpeed 340 kias NBAA IFR Range1100Deliveries FQ 2007 http://www.adamaircraft.com
Cessna Mustang-Cessna Aircraft Company-Wichita Kansas, USA Price $2.7MSpeed340 kias NBAA IFR Range1150Deliveries Now http://www.cessna.com
Eclipse 500-Eclipse Aviation- Albuquerque, New Mexico USA Price $1.5MSpeed 370 kiasRange1125 NBAA IFR Deliveries Now http://www.eclipseaviation.com
HondaJet- Honda Aircraft Co.- Greensboro, North Carolina USA Price $3.65MSpeed 405 kias NBAA IFR Range 1100Deliveries 2010 http://world.honda.com/jet/
Javelin MK-10- Aviation Technology Group-Englewood, Colorado USA Price $2.795 Speed 500 kias NBAA IFR Range 1000 Deliveries 2009 http://www.avtechgroup.com/
Phenom 100- Embraer Executive Jets- Sao Jos dos Campos, Brazil Price $2.85M
NBAAIFR Range 1160 NAM
Other VLJs in the twin-engine group include Epic Elite, Spectrum Aeronautical Spectrum 33, Eviation EV-20 Vantage Jet.
It is the intention of this article to provide an overview of the Very Light Jets- who's in the game and how the phenomenon can help us as pilots. Standby for more information as it develops.