Thursday, September 1, 2005
VLJs Turn Short Final
As the market comes to a boil, three finalists are vying to become the first certified Very Light Jet
We’re about to find out if the Very Light Jets (VLJs) will be the dominant force in general aviation that some people predict. CEOs Jack Pelton of Cessna, Vern Raburn of Eclipse and Rick Adam of Adam Aircraft think it will. Within only about 18 months, we’re liable to see three different models of VLJs certified and delivered to the market.
Those three are the Cessna Mustang, Eclipse 500 and Adam A700. The Mustang made its first flight on April 23 and, at this writing in late June, had already accumulated some 140 hours of flight testing. The Eclipse and Adam airplanes have been flying for more than a year and have logged hundreds of hours of flight-test time. (Diamond’s single-engine D-Jet and Honda’s unusual twin jet are other serious entries into the VLJ market, but they’re both probably farther down the certification road.)
Some industry observers question whether or not there is enough market for the proliferation of light jets proposed by the companies above. Critics like to note that the entire jet market consisted of only 500 sales last year, making it unlikely that VLJ manufacturers alone will produce 1,000 airplanes a year.
But the VLJ manufacturers are betting on a changing pattern of transportation, encouraging pilots and non-pilots alike to take advantage of the smaller jets. Eclipse Aviation, for example, just announced an agreement with DayJet Corporation to supply as many as 300 VLJs to operate a new on-demand service on a per-seat basis. Additionally, Cessna Aircraft Company, Adam and Eclipse are gambling that the step-up and replacement market will generate plenty of potential buyers. Since Cessna discontinued the 300- and 400-series twins in the mid-1980s, there have been essentially no corporate piston twins available, and the VLJ builders hope that their products will serve as replacements for many older piston twins and turboprops.
Unlike the Mustang and Eclipse, the AdamJet employs Williams engines, in this case, a pair of FJ-33s with 1,200 pounds of thrust per side. The Williams FJ33 was certified in 2004 and is a scaled-down version of the company’s FJ44 that currently powers the Cessna Citation CJ1, Raytheon Premier and the upcoming Swearingen SJ-30-2.
The A700 is a derivative, of course, of the piston-powered A500. The new AdamJet will use the same wing, same boom, same tail, same nose gear, same instrument panel, same seats and so on. This ability to use components that were already approved during the certification process of the A500 has given the new Adam jet a jump start right out of the gate.
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