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Aviation Breakthroughs Oddities/Milestones: Personal Jets

Though many doubt the viability of such a concept, the idea of a small, single-pilot, practical jet-powered airplane has been around for a good long while.

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The idea of a small personal jet is an alluring one, and there have been some limited success stories, as you’ll read here. But the problem facing very small, very light jets is that turbine engines are most efficient at altitudes starting at 30,000 feet and up. Below that, their fuel burns are far greater, which is why you hear pilots of small and not-so-small jets pleading to be allowed to climb.

Still, the attraction of personal jets has kept them coming in wave after wave since the 1950s, culminating in three relatively successful designs beginning in the early part of this century. But even that wasn’t easy, and some of the stories are harrowing in just about every imaginable way.

Morane-Saulnier MS. 760 Paris Jet

Morane-Saulnier MS. 760 Paris Jet
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Morane-Saulnier MS. 760 Paris Jet

When you think of the first bizjet, you might think of the Lear 23, the Lockheed JetStar or the North American Sabreliner. Only the Lear is a personal jet in any respect, and the JetStar and Sabre are pretty big airplanes, the JetStar especially. But the Paris Jet was a truly right-sized private jet, and a single-pilot jet, to boot. A twin-engine French model that weighs well under 10,000 pounds at gross, it was originally intended for a contract competition to provide a plane for the training of would-be fighter pilots and the shuttling about of officers. After losing out in that competition, its designers quickly pivoted, threw in a couple of extra seats and called it a private jet. Over the years, the Paris Jet has resurfaced a number of times, though it has never gotten much traction despite not-terrible performance, 310 knots with about an 800-nm range. The company built 219 of them, mostly for military use, and there are still a good number of them about. Downsides are, they are loud and expensive to operate for performance you could get with a used TBM at operating costs way less than half of the outlay for flying a Paris Jet.

Photo By flickr user anna zvereva.

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