Pilot Journal
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

2007: The Year Of The VLJ


Will the world of VLJ diverge into two distinct markets?


year of the vljRecently, global superstore Wal-Mart announced that it would sell Eclipse 500s at select locations. Customers will make a deposit, get a demo ride, and if they like it, they’ll ink the deal right at the airport. Wal-Mart will even paint its yellow happy face on the tail. Now there’s a thought. All that will cost a mere $1.6 million or so. " />

VLJ makers are quick to show a sober side when it comes to turning over the keys to their airplanes. To whit: Adam Aircraft’s approach to transition training. “Our Aircraft Insurance Assurance Program is already well defined,” says Adam’s President Joe Walker.

Minimum pilot qualifications to greenlight an A700 purchase and participate in the Insurance Assistance Program are private, instrument and multi-engine ratings, 1,000 hours total time, 500 hours complex time and 200 hours Adam A500 time. “A700 customers are encouraged to purchase an A500 first if they don’t have turbine experience,” says Walker. “It’s a great trainer for the A700 jet: the cockpits have the same avionics suite. Takeoff and landing speeds and handling qualities are close because both aircraft have the same wing and tail.”

Owners can then trade in their A500 at a guaranteed price after 200 hours and take possession of the A700, which they’ll fly with a professional mentor pilot until sign-off. “We guarantee a successful transition, or they get their money back,” asserts Walker.

Dressed Up, No Place To Fly
It’s clear that nobody in the industry wants low-time pilots with Top Gun Maverick egos blasting smoking craters in Central Park. The Eclipse 500 curriculum will shuttle owners with instrument and multi ratings from preparatory transition training through the type rating, then on to mentor pilot and recurrent training. United Airlines will run the program. Hypoxia recognition and upset training in an L-39 Czech trainer jet are two bulwarks of the comprehensive syllabus.

Cessna Mustang buyers will go through a similarly structured regimen, handled by longtime partner Flight Safety International.

An Insurance Dilemma?
Again the topic of insurance rears its big head. Underwriters are expected to remain conservative until in-the-field numbers accumulate to bolster their risk-assignment confidence. Before the tech stock bust, low-hour, unqualified dot-com-boom pilots found out in a hurry that, even though they were rich enough to buy Meridians and Pilatuses by the Prada bag-full, underwriters refused to insure them.

Even so, hull premiums for well-trained, qualified pilots may prove surprisingly docile. Eclipse’s Broom anticipates rates “from the low $20s to the high $40s per year, depending on the pilot’s skill level.”

Industry analysts Conklin & de Decker see rates for the Adam A700 at nearly $42,000 based on its higher sticker price. For comparison, a typical Piper Meridian quote can be nearly $45,000 per year, while a PC-12 can top $50,000.




Labels: VLJs

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