DayJet Launches First GA Per-Seat Jet Service

DayJet Launches First GA Per-Seat Jet Service
L to R: Lakeland Mayor Ralph Fletcher, Polk County Commission Chair Bob English, DayJet co-founders Ed Iacobucci and Nancy Iacobucci and DayJet customer Todd Eliasen of Eliasen Environmental Inc. participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

L to R: Lakeland Mayor Ralph Fletcher, Polk County Commission Chair Bob English, DayJet co-founders Ed Iacobucci and Nancy Iacobucci and DayJet customer Todd Eliasen of Eliasen Environmental Inc. participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

By Karen Di Piazza

On Oct. 3, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Tallahassee Regional Airport (TLH) in Fla., marked DayJet Corporation’s official launch of its new, per-seat priced jet service. With an initial fleet of 12 Eclipse 500 very light jets, seating up to three passengers, Boca Raton, Fla.-based DayJet Services, LLC, the certificated FAR Part 135 operator, says its 1,500 members can begin flying point-to-point to five DayPorts within Florida. As DayJet’s VLJ fleet expands, so will its air-taxi operations. The company has plans for DayPorts throughout the Southeast within a couple of years.

DayJet has been flying a selected group of passengers for revenue since mid-September. But the company’s official launch means more than just providing point-to-point VLJ service; its reservation system, says DayJet, is the first 100 percent all-digital operator.

The operator said that with the speed and efficiency of its aircraft, its on-demand jet service has created the next major advance in corporate productivity and regional economic development. Similar to commercial airlines, DayJet sells individual seats for on-demand charter, customized for each passenger’s unique time and budget requirements. The company said individual seat prices start at a modest premium, comparable to full-fare economy coach airfares.

DayJet’s members, which include executives from small to large corporations, can avoid driving by flying within five Florida DayPort airports—Boca Raton, Gainesville, Lakeland, Pensacola and Tallahassee. Being able to fly on short hops is a plus for business travelers who want to get home the same day.

DayJet’s first paying passenger

Howard Gruverman, president and CEO of Florida-based Edify, LLC, was the first paying customer to fly on a DayJet.

“The flight took place on Sept. 14,” says Gruverman, who employs 55 people, with offices around the country.

Edify specializes in corporate health strategy solutions. As a regular air charter passenger, he said he usually flies on larger jets or turboprops.

“What got my attention was DayJet’s great service,” he said. “I’ve flown both commercially and privately a lot, and you can’t fake what your personality is; DayJet’s pilots, and everyone I came into contact with, were sincere, with friendly attitudes. I was the only passenger aboard DayJet’s first flight, so I had plenty of room. The flight went very well and I was impressed.”

He said “service” and “friendless” is a thing of the past with commercial airlines, and that’s another reason he believes that DayJet could be wildly successful. Although Gruverman believes DayJet’s per-seat idea is a good one, he also believes the company’s price point is on the high side.

“I paid $1,500 to $1,700 for a round-trip flight from Boca Raton to Tallahassee, which took about and hour and 20 minutes,” he said. “I’m waiting for DayJet’s price model to come down. If it does, I’ll fly with DayJet frequently; so will my employees.”

He added that his company has placed an order for an Embraer Phenom 100 VLJ, but says he’ll still use DayJet.

Astro doggedly provides service

The DayJet, with its unique, colorful paint scheme, has ample baggage room accommodating up to three passengers.

The DayJet, with its unique, colorful paint scheme, has ample baggage room accommodating up to three passengers.

DayJet said its advanced system technology for real-time operations, dubbed Astro, after the canine character in the animated TV show “The Jetsons,” contains more lines of code than early releases of Microsoft Windows.

“We’re embarking on a new era in regional transportation,” said Ed Iacobucci, president and CEO of DayJet. “For the first time, this brings the benefits of on-demand jet service to the average business traveler.”

Iacobucci describes Astro, built by his specialized team, as highly complex mathematical algorithms—the brain of the system. Astro automates and manages every aspect of DayJet’s operations. This includes customer reservations, billing, membership management, flight records and training, flight scheduling, pilot electronic flight bag, DayPort field information and maintenance control. The all-digital capabilities also include digital signatures, electronic surveillance and recordkeeping, automated flight planning and filing, automated compliance checking and an automated Transportation Security Administration security clearance.

DayJet said its complex system gives an advantage to its per-seat, on-demand charter program. It calculates in real-time the optimum deployment of hundreds of planes and pilots to meet the demands of customers, while ensuring regulatory compliance.

The company plans to expand its service within the next two years. DayPort locations will be available across the Southeast in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Traven Gruen-Kennedy, vice president of strategic operations at DayJet Corp., said the company is committed to running the world’s largest fleet of DayJets.

“We don’t plan to launch operations in Europe, as some media reports have indicated, but DayJet does plan to have its aircraft equipped to meet next-generation satellite-based technology, rather than current ground, radar-based technology,” he said. “That technology will be available through Eclipse Aviation’s avionics package. Flying with next-generation technology, DayJet will help lead the industry. That’s where the whole aviation industry is headed.”

To facilitate its growth, DayJet has a five-year order for more than 1,000 Eclipse 500s; the company has ordered 1,400 VLJs in all. DayJet hopes to have 30 jets flying by the end of 2007; within three years, it hopes to exceed 300 VLJs. This projected growth is solely dependent upon the airframer’s ability to ramp up aircraft production and delivery.

Why DayJet waited to launch in October

On Aug. 28, DayJet obtained Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly all 12 of its Eclipse 500 VLJs, but the company decided to test its program and service, and to make sure Astro wasn’t barking up the wrong tree. For instance, seven days following FAA approval, Gruen-Kennedy confirmed that DayJet conducted 77 flights across Florida, under FAR Part 91. The company continued testing its entire operation after that period, before it was ready to accept a selected group of paying passengers.

“We conducted flights as if we were flying paying passengers,” said Gruen-Kennedy. “We actually had our fleet—a two-captain crew for each jet—fly company personnel from DayPort to DayPort. We wanted to test every aspect of our revolutionary reservation system, by allowing personnel to book trips just like the public would.”

He said offering top service is a priority.

Although DayJet started its for-hire flights in mid-September, the company wasn’t ready to make a public announcement. A ribbon-cutting ceremony had yet to be coordinated, and DayJet had hoped to have more than 12 jets by the time it officially launched service. As of Oct. 25, however, DayJet’s air carrier certificate listed 15 EA500s.

“In addition to flying passengers, some of our DayJet aircraft are used for pilot training,” explained Gruen-Kennedy. “We’re really looking forward to taking delivery of more aircraft.”

Originally, DayJet announced it would launch its per-seat jet service in time for last year’s holiday season, but the aircraft manufacturer wasn’t able to keep its delivery schedule.

“That gave us more time to test our reservation system, hire more pilots and to work with our members,” Gruen-Kennedy said. “And the FAA has been very cooperative with DayJet in this whole process.”

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