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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.

Diamond D-Jet

Diamond D-Jet
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Diamond D-Jet

If you’ve noticed one constant with the development of personal jets, it’s that financial difficulties are common, almost universal, and so it was with Diamond Aircraft’s development of its single-engine D-Jet. Begun in 2006, the program progressed to the point where the London, Ontario, Canada-based North American arm of Diamond was test-flying three of the planes, and they seemed happy with the progress it was making. The five-seat, single-engine, all-composite jet was powered by a single Williams FJ44 turbofan engine, and a flight report by an experienced jet pilot at the time was laudatory of the plane. Diamond talked typical long-range cruise speeds of around 250 knots, but the high-cruise airspeed was around 315 knots. Still, with the recession, Diamond, like so many other companies, hit a rough patch and suspended the program. It’s reportedly under review for a possible restart. We’ll keep our fingers crossed it happens.

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons

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