Despite an active first quarter in the light jet market, the remainder of the year has proven to be a sobering reminder that the world continues to recover from the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009. This is not surprising, considering that the light jet market tends to react directly to the general economy as measured by stock market indices.
Very light jets
Eclipse Aerospace (Booth No. 6667) has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes of the bankruptcy of the original Eclipse Aviation, with a focus on helping the owners of the 260 Eclipse 500s keep their airplanes flying safely and efficiently and a goal of eventually restarting the EA500 production line.
The good news for Cessna Aircraft is that analysts expect the Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer to maintain its position as the business aircraft market leader in terms of volume over the next decade. But the bad news is that it will have to fight an ever-increasing amount of competition, most notably from Embraer, meaning the company must continue to be relentless in refreshing its business jet product lines and launching new ones.
The trajectory for single-engine very light jets is up and to the right. List prices for what were initially envisioned as $1 million pocket rockets are now bumping up against, and in some cases through, $2 million–and likely to go higher.
Embraer's first South African customer for a Phenom 300 light jet, John McCormick, CEO of McCormick Property Developments, took delivery of his airplane last month during a ceremony at the manufacturer's headquarters in São José dos Campos, Brazil, just a few months after the first Phenom 100 entered operation in South Africa.
The Kestrel single-engine turboprop, whose developers had been seeking funding, has found new life under the leadership of Alan Klapmeier, cofounder and former chairman of Cirrus Design. Klapmeier’s new company, Kestrel Aircraft, is based in Brunswick, Maine, and plans call for an investment of more than $100 million in the program.
Piper Aircraft has chosen Millennium Concepts of Wichita to provide the passenger and crew seats for the PiperJet single-engine very light jet. According to Kevin Reifschneider, Millennium Concepts’ president and managing director, “We have an extensive cabinet shop where we manufacture, certify and install VIP interior furniture for general aviation through wide-body aircraft.
This AIN pilot/reporter had an opportunity to fly the Eclipse on two different occasions, once on a short cross-country trip in March between Chicago and Nashville and again to Rockford, Ill., for some approaches, landings
and airwork. My instructor pilot was North American Jet Eclipse instructor Mike Vautell.
I’ve been waiting quite some time to fly the Eclipse, a dozen years in fact, since the then revolutionary very light jet (VLJ) was first announced in 1998. The term very light jet–originally coined to describe the Eclipse specifically–came to be applied to a number of small jets, although a precise definition seemed to depend upon an aircraft manufacturer’s marketing department at any given time.