Personal Jets Disrupt Aviation

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Personal Jets Disrupt Aviation

According to The Wall Street Journal,1 travel in private jets will triple in the next 10 years with the introduction of what is being referred to as very light jet, or VLJ, aircraft. These new jets will introduce a whole new group of passengers and pilots to the convenience of traveling point-to-point. In addition, they will make air taxi service at more than 10,000 smaller landing strips a reality. That’s 20 times the number of destinations served today by commercial airlines.

In fact, Clayton Christensen, writing in the January/February 2004 issue of Harvard’s Strategy & Innovation2 newsletter, identified VLJs as a classic “disruptive technology.” And, nearly two years ago, the Trends editors reached the same conclusion.

Not only are the VLJs less expensive than traditional corporate jets, they’re less expensive in many cases than propeller-driven aircraft. Some VLJs will cost as little as $950,000 and they will range in price up to $3.65 million for the 10-seat Spectrum 33. Compare that to a 2005 Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop, with 10 seats, priced at $4 million.

The first VLJ to be commercially available is the Eclipse 500, the brainchild of former Microsoft executive Vern Raburn. Customer deliveries are expected to begin by late 2006. The fully loaded twin-engine jet requires only 2,200 feet of runway to take off, which is half to two-thirds of what most business jets require. That opens up access to as many as 20,000 landing strips in the United States alone.

The Eclipse is priced at under $1.5 million, which is half the price of the cheapest twinjet now flying. As a result of this, the air taxi industry is “chomping at the bit” to get their hands on these aircraft. A company called DayJet in Delray Beach, Florida, has already ordered 309 Eclipse 500s and plans to begin flying point-to-point air taxi service, priced at between $1 and $3 per mile, later this year.

A very light jet is defined as anything under 10,000 pounds. For comparison, a common four-seat propeller-driven aircraft, like a Cessna 172-RG, weighs about 2,500 pounds when loaded. Meanwhile, the smallest traditional business jet, the Cessna CJ-1 weighs 10,700 pounds. The Eclipse 500 falls right between these two categories with a weight of 5,600 pounds.

However, the big difference between VLJs and propeller-driven aircraft comes in performance. The King Air 200 can go 272 knots at 30,000 feet. The Eclipse can go 375 knots at 41,000 feet...

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