By Karen Di Piazza
The Federal Aviation Administration has approved DayJet Corporation’s Part 135 training program to operate its point-to-point, airline-like jet service. DayJet Services, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary and the FAR Part 135 certificate holder, will operate DayJet’s per-seat, on-demand chartered aircraft. DayJet, with corporate headquarters in Delray Beach, Fla., has placed a firm order for 239 Eclipse 500 very light jets, with an option to purchase an additional 70 aircraft over the next two years.
On March 31, with the delivery of three Eclipse 500s, DayJet became the first commercial operator to take delivery of any VLJs. Presently, the aircraft will remain at Eclipse Aviation’s New Mexico headquarters, where DayJet’s pilots will use them for training.
“These aircraft and the next one we take delivery of will be used for training,” says Ed Iacobucci, DayJet cofounder, president and CEO. “Our new aircraft will also serve as the means for our pilots to obtain a type rating. As more aircraft are delivered, we’ll use those for our customers.”
As of April 3, according to the FAA’s registry make/model inquiry results, 14 of the 53 listed Eclipse 500 tail numbers have been assigned to DayJet. Iacobucci, a noted high-tech entrepreneur, acknowledged that Eclipse has had problems and several delays.
“No doubt, the heat is on Eclipse to produce,” he said. “I know they’re working on getting the third AHRS (attitude heading reference system) functional; for 135 operations, it has to work. That could be accomplished several ways, but a good portion of Eclipse 500s we’ll take delivery on will have Avidyne’s systems. There’s nothing unsafe about Avidyne’s avionics whatsoever; we’ll just need that third backup.”
The three aircraft DayJet took delivery of don’t have functional AHRS. Iacobucci said that until the FAA certifies the Eclipse 500 AHRS, the aircraft can only be flown under FAR Part 91.
“As we begin taking delivery of our Eclipse 500 jets, it marks a major milestone for DayJet,” Iacobucci said.
He added that with Eclipse’s production progress, DayJet, Eclipse’s largest Part 135 customer, is closer to keeping its promise of radically changing the way thousands of regional travelers will be able to fly.
He said that in the future, DayJet’s aircraft will be retrofitted, at Eclipse’s expense, with avionics from new suppliers, since Eclipse and Avidyne ended its relationship in February.
“But that won’t happen for a long time,” he said. “You can’t retrofit everything at the same time and operate a per-seat, on-demand jet service.”
Although Iacobucci remains confident in Eclipse’s ability to produce aircraft, he says if DayJet doesn’t get enough aircraft from Eclipse soon enough, he might have to again change the company’s launch date. Iacobucci said he’s had to delay launching DayJet’s operations a few times because of Eclipse’s delivery delays.
“But I don’t think I’ve been sold down the river,” he said. “As an investor in Eclipse, I know they’ve had problems; I also know they’re being fixed and the Eclipse 500 is a good plane. I have every confidence in the aircraft and that it will meet our customers’ needs.”
He said the company presently has seven ATP pilots that will immediately begin training in the delivered Eclipse 500s.
“These pilots are 10,000-hour-plus jet-trained pilots,” he said. “We’re in the process of hiring more pilots.”
DayJet’s operations are built around the idea of being able to fly between underserved regional and community airports called DayPorts.
“Our network of DayPorts will serve as the primary points of origin or destination for our per-seat, on-demand flights, where currently there’s limited or no scheduled airline service,” Iacobucci said.
DayPorts will be located at various fixed base operations and airports. Each DayPort will house DayJet customer care representatives.
“DayPorts will additionally become home for our maintenance facilities and flight operations personnel,” he said. “Pilots will return home at the end of their shift each day and the DayJet fleet will return to a DayBase each night for maintenance.”
He said that flights will be booked through a new, efficient, online booking platform, similar to how people can easily book commercial airline flights, which is a first for the general aviation industry. Iacobucci says that recently, because of false media reports that DayJet’s “online booking system is available,” people have asked, “How is that possible without certified Part 135 aircraft available?”
“Our online booking system isn’t available to the public; it’s in the final stages of testing, so I can see why people would question that,” he laughed.
Recently, DayJet secured an infusion of $50 million—its third round of capital, which is the largest funding of its kind raised for the GA air-taxi segment.
“This funding supports construction of DayPort customer check-in areas,” Iacobucci said. “It will support delivering regional business travelers with affordable mobility between difficult-to-reach regional destinations. Most of the $50 million will support infrastructure—administration, staffing.”
He said that less than 20 percent of the $50 million is applicable to the cost of down payments for Eclipse 500 aircraft.
“This $50 million shot-in-the-arm is the key to supporting the operational launch of our company’s jet service,” he said. “It’s akin to an airline booking system, but without airline delays and long security lines.”
Originally, DayJet’s launch was set for last year’s holiday season. Iacobucci says DayJet’s service is now set for the end of the second quarter this year. He said Eclipse is working closely with the FAA to obtain its production certificate, which will expedite aircraft deliveries. Currently, the FAA has to inspect each Eclipse aircraft before a certificate of airworthiness can be issued; that slows down customer aircraft deliveries.
Iacobucci said that as soon as DayJet has enough aircraft for 135 use, the company’s initial service areas will include Tallahassee, Lakeland, Boca Raton, Gainesville and Pensacola, Fla.
“In the future, as DayJet’s operations grow, we won’t just be a Florida-based operation,” he said. “Being able to hop a flight at reasonable prices will consist of West and East Coast operations, too. At some point it will become necessary to have a larger aircraft—maybe a Cessna Mustang, an Embraer Phenom 100, an Adam A700 or a HondaJet.”
As for Eclipse aircraft, Iacobucci said they have removed the fourth passenger seat to give three passengers more room.
“And, of course, we didn’t take the optional lavatory,” he said.
Iacobucci says some of his competitors find this to be controversial, as they believe no one will fly on aircraft without a lavatory.
“After conducting several focus groups, we found that having an enclosed lavatory wasn’t a priority for our passengers, as DayJet’s operations consist of short-range fights,” he said. “And people seem to forget that there are restrooms at FBOs, so each DayPort will have all the facilities you’ll need.”
Iacobucci said DayJet’s entire theme is to “stop wasted travel time.”
“People will have more personal time in their lives by being able to fly from point A to point B—quickly,” he said. “Booking a flight through a software system that allows quick flights is also an advantage for corporations’ managed travel departments, as they’re used to the airline-type booking system. And by offering real-time flight availability, we can quote prices on a per-seat basis. No one in the GA industry has been able to do this.”
All aircraft will have two captains. Iacobucci said that from DayPort to DayPort, two pilots, each trained as pilot in command, will operate all DayJet flights.
In 1998, Iacobucci was recognized as the top entrepreneur in the world, receiving the prestigious Ernst & Young International Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Iacobucci began his career at IBM. There, he played a key role in the entry of “Big Blue” into the commercial software business—first in the network management arena of NetView. Later, he was involved in the entry systems (known as the personal computer) division, with architecture and design leadership responsibilities for IBM DOS and OS/2. Iacobucci led the joint IBM-Microsoft design team that launched the modern era of multitasking personal computing operating systems.
In 1989, he left IBM and confounded Citrix Systems Inc., to explore and implement his vision of server-based computing. He led the company through its market and product development phases. Citrix grew rapidly; it was named to both the Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 in record time. Iacobucci served as Citrix chairman through 2000, when he retired to pursue his interests in aviation.
Iacobucci and his wife Nancy aren’t new to the charter world. Under the umbrella of DayJet Corp., they’ve operated Wingedfoot Services, LLC, since 2000. The FAR Part 135 operation has a Challenger 604 and Learjet 60.
“For me, DayJet is the most exciting business challenge I’ve ever faced,” Iacobucci smiled.
For more information on DayJet, visit [http://www.dayjet.com].