Very Light Jets Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2535 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Transportation

¶ … Light Jets (VLJ). Specifically, it will discuss what this new class of planes is, and what impact they could have on air travel in the United States. The VLJ is targeted primarily to smaller companies needing air travel, air taxi service operators, and higher income individuals tired of airline travel. Some experts feel the VLJ may revolutionize the way many people travel by making commercial air travel obsolete. It seems VLJs are the wave of the future, and the next generation of air travelers may have completely different experiences where and when they fly.

Very Light Jets are a new class of smaller, more affordable private jets that are just now beginning to hit the market. These low cost private jet aircraft typically seat six passengers and require only one pilot to operate them, compared to larger, more expensive jets on the market. Many experts believe this new jet class will eventually make private air travel more affordable to both companies and private individuals. Many predict a boom in aircraft sales and travel as the jets become better known.

Background of Very Light Jets

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Very Light Jets (sometimes called "microjets") have been in development by several companies for many years. In the 1990s, NASA began discussing utilizing smaller, general aviation and rural airports to add to the network of large airports that serve the nation. They advocated using small passenger planes as "air taxis" between these smaller airports to help streamline travel and bypass the bottlenecks at most major airports in the country. The VLJs are one response to this NASA idea.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Very Light Jets Assignment

Very Light Jets could become a revolution in air travel if they really catch on. One writer defines the jets this way, "By definition, a VLJ is generally considered an aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight below 10,000 lb. And certified for single-pilot operations" (Croft, 2006, p. 33). In addition, they are configured so they can be flown by only one pilot, and they can take off from runways as short as 3,000 feet, which means they can service many more small airports than current business-class jets. They are expected to bring affordable and high-speed air travel to the industry, and to open up the business of air taxi fleets that NASA has been promoting since the 1990s.

The Difference Between VLJs, Propeller Aircraft, and Business Jets

There are several key differences between the VLJs. First are foremost is cost. Their price range runs from under $1 million to around $3 million, while business-class jets can cost upwards of $45 million for long-range jets such as the Gulfstream 550 (Croft, 2006, pg. 33). Even low-end business jets cost about twice as much as the VLJs. Second, they are lighter in weight than business jets, with a take-off weight of under 10,000 pounds, while business jets are all over 10,000 pounds take off weight. They also are much more cost-efficient than larger jets, so they give the promise of more profits for their owners. They can cruise higher and faster than propeller-driven aircraft, and while they do cost more than prop planes, such as the Cessna 175, they offer many more features, and so, could be extremely attractive to the owner-operator in addition to small jet taxi and other commercial services.

Disadvantages of VLJs

While some aviation experts tout the Very Light Jets as an aviation revolution waiting to happen, others are not so sure. One of the major disadvantages of at least some of the VLJs is the lack of a lavatory. The Eclipse 500 has no lavatory on board, and the Cessna's emergency lavatory is located between the cockpit and the cabin. The Adam A700 has a lavatory, and uses that as a selling feature for its planes. In addition, while costs are far lower than business-class planes, it is expected that costs to passengers will be the same or more as first-class tickets on commercial airlines, thus putting VLJ travel out of the reach of many American travelers.

Training

There is also extensive training necessary for pilots wishing to fly the jets, which may be cumbersome for private pilots. For example, the FAA requires pilots to receive a "type" rating in this type of aircraft. The Eclipse 500's training will be administered by United Airlines, and will include extensive classroom and simulator time. They will also provide "mentor pilots" who will fly with the new pilots for a period of time, and re-training will be required every 12 months (Croft, 2006, pg. 36). Thus, the training necessary may make the jets less attractive to private owners, who may not want to invest the time and money in so much new training. Cessna will also provide mentor pilots, but maintain the transition from prop to jet aircraft will be easier in their Mustang.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has created guidelines for training because essentially the VLJs are an entirely new class of airplane. Training will be rigorous because the NBAA believes VLJ pilots will run the gamut from inexperienced owner-operators to extremely experienced aviation professionals. Because the planes include very advanced avionics, the NBAA believes pilots must be extremely well trained, and they are the body that has pushed for mentor pilots. They believe, "As a result, the concept of a mentor pilot is an integral part of the guidance contained within this document. Operators of very light jets are urged to utilize the resources of a mentor pilot program until such time that they have acquired the necessary skills and proficiency for safe operation in all flight regimes" (Editors, 2007). Many people believe VLJ pilots will actually be some of the best-trained, technically proficient pilots in the country.

In addition, many pilots and other industry experts believe the little jets will not serve the nation's 5,000 small airports, as designers are predicting, but will instead clog the airspace over the nation's largest airports, creating even more air traffic in an already congested system. Another writer notes, "Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, the largest pilot union, said it's more likely the new jets will swarm to the busy airspace above the 35 biggest airports, through which 95% of all air passengers travel" ("Smaller, faster, cheaper," 2006). If this occurs, it could create havoc at some of the larger airports that are already critically overloaded with aircraft.

The Players

Several companies are in the process of developing different versions of the VLJ. Only one has successfully received full certification from the FAA and delivered a fully certified jet, and that is Cessna, based in Wichita Kansas. The FAA certified their Citation Mustang in late 2006 by the FAA and certified it for "known icing conditions" as well. The first Mustang was delivered in late November 2006 to a management group in Fresno California. Two other aircraft companies are close behind Cessna in development and certification. In the $3 million price range, the Mustang has a range of 1,500 miles, seats six, and can cruise at 41,000 feet at 340 knots (Croft, 2006, pg. 36). The first operator to take delivery is an air taxi firm hoping to establish service in California.

The Eclipse 500, built by Eclipse Aviation in Albuquerque, New Mexico was scheduled for delivery before the first Cessna Mustang, but delays in production pushed the first delivery back to January 2007. The FAA certified the plane about three weeks after Cessna received certification, but has not certified it for "known icing conditions," which means each plane will have to be individually certified until the company receives this certification. The plane has a range of 1,125 miles and can cruise at 370 knots.

The Adam Aircraft A700 is being produced in Denver, Colorado, and has not delivered a plane yet. The company expects the $2.25 million dollar craft should be certified by the FAA sometime this year, and delivery of their backordered jets could begin soon afterward. The A700 seats seven and has a real lavatory with a privacy curtain. The A700 has a 1,200-mile range and cruises at 340 knots.

In addition to these three major companies producing VLJs, there are numerous other models underdevelopment and in the planning stages. Some of the jets closest to full development are the HondaJet and the PiperJet. Some industry experts predict 20,000 or more of these jets will come online in the next ten years, while others believe far fewer numbers are more reasonable.

Magnum Jet is one of the major companies starting up jet service with a fleet of VLJs. Their model of choice is the Adam Aircraft A700. Magnum chose the A700 because it has more cabin space and a lavatory. Magnum is a partnership between Million Air, an operator of terminals and facilities at numerous general aviation airports. Magnum's business plan is to make routes available between select, underserved markets. They are calling their service an "air limousine" service, where a corporate team or group needs to make a trip quickly and reliably. The Magnum jets will serve… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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