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. " />

What’s this? Lower rates? That’s due in large part to the FAA’s insistence on high-level training. William Lovett, vice president of AIG Insurance, said recently, “Quality training will be a critical element to a successful future for VLJs.”

Still, industry observers expect fairly intense insurer scrutiny of VLJ owners on a one-by-one basis before they’ll sign the dotted risk line. Willis Global Aviation and AIG among others want more than just comprehensive training: good pilot skills and lots of experience will remain key factors as well.

When it all shakes out, VLJ owners will have to look sharp and stay sharp. Still, the siren call of “a jet in every hangar” may yet create a generation of pilots who will transition easily to personal jet flight.

Broom speaks to that new wave: “I’m a low-time pilot. I have 500 hours in Cessnas and Mooneys. I have flown the Eclipse 500 a couple of times, and was I surprised. It’s a very easy aircraft to fly. It feels very natural. Landing was just a little faster than a Cessna 172. That’s one of the real appeals: it’s in a flight regime familiar to piston pilots.”

Nobody knows yet whether Cessna, Embraer, Adam or Eclipse will become first VLJ King of the Hill. Or whether a lower/slower/friendlier Cirrus or Diamond personal jet will create a new, jet-powered Bonanza-style class. However it unfolds, watch for 2007 to be the year when general aviation changes forever.

Labels: VLJs


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