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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.

Sonex Aircraft SubSonex Jet

Sonex Aircraft SubSonex Jet
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Sonex Aircraft SubSonex Jet

One of our favorite planes period, the SubSonex embraces its mission, to be a fun jet that you don’t have to be rich to own. The cost of the kit, including the quick-build option, the PBS TJ-100 engine, and a bunch of bells and whistles still comes in at around $140,000. You do then indeed need to build the thing, but Sonex kits are from all accounts designed to make the job easier, even for newbies. It’s fast for a single-place jet, around 200 knots, and its max range at long-range cruise settings is around 400-nm. How practical a cross-country airplane is it? Not very. How cool a person jet is it? Off the charts. We’ll take two, please.

Photo Courtesy of Subsonex.

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