The prospect of marginally qualified pilots hurtling through the rarefied atmosphere of the flight levels in very light jets and promoting fear and loathing in the heavy-metal professionals–which is how some people view the imminent advent of the “Volksjet” era–has been a topic of lively debate of late, and no surprise to Eclipse Aviation founder, president and CEO Vern Raburn.
Beyond the merriment that the very light jet is coming to market, the insurance industry is preparing to drop the curtain in the final act.
It’s an unusual fact that, unlike just about any other marketable items, very light jets (VLJs), alcohol and tobacco share one unique characteristic. Even if you have the money, the seller can refuse to sell them to you if you’re not qualified. What’s more, those qualifications are all based on time, measured in years for would-be drinkers and smokers, and in left-seat hours for would-be VLJ pilots. Of course, this is as it should be.
Eclipse Aviation’s fourth conforming flight-test aircraft, N505EA, which made a gear-up landing on September 4 at Albuquerque International Sunport, will be repaired and back in the air by the end of this month, according to a company spokesman. The two pilots on board were not injured during the accident, and Eclipse said the cause of the belly landing was pilot error.
Albuquerque, N.M.-based start-up manufacturer Eclipse Aviation said its six-month-old JetMatch program has “more than exceeded our expectations.” JetMatch “facilitates partnerships” in new Eclipse 500s via a password-protected message board on the company’s Web site. An Eclipse spokesman said the service has thus far resulted in two matches for the $1.295 million VLJ.
“This is the largest turnout we’ve had in the 50 years we’ve been holding the Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar,” Ed Williams, Flight Safety Foundation’s (FSF) chairman, told the more than 370 attendees in his opening remarks.
Williams urged everyone in corporate aviation to become a media source in their community. “We must counter the public’s negative image of corporate aviation as being a perk or toy of the rich.”
GE Honda Aero Engines, though it has yet to announce an airframe application for its engine, continues to develop its HF118 1,700-pound-thrust turbofan. The company validated durability and performance enhancements on rig tests held in March at Honda’s facility in Japan.
Raytheon Aircraft brought a completed Hawker Horizon to Geneva for the first time. Full FAA certification of the super-midsize jet is expected by the end of this summer and EASA approval next year. The Wichita OEM has firm orders for 32 Horizons, and a soon-to-be-finalized firm order from NetJets for 30 aircraft and options on another 20.
Various aviation insurance professionals seem to agree that the overall market has stabilized with premiums still significantly higher than pre-9/11 levels but with decreases in various segments. Some brokers have reported decreases in premiums as high as 25 percent, but those have turned out to be unusual cases. For those bizav operators who have seen decreases, the average reduction has been 5 to 10 percent.