By Jerry Lips
There are some sexy new airplanes that are going to be arriving at our airports during the next couple years. If we skip ahead 50 years, we’ll better understand the significance of these new arrivals. Today known as VLJs, this new generation of aircraft will most clearly mark the beginning of the change from piston to turbine in general aviation. OK, piston aircraft will still be flying 50 years from now, but their market share of new sales will be insignificant compared to turbine.
I realize some skeptics will remind us that Bill Lear caused similar speculation 40 years ago. But unlike the heavy, thirsty, turbo jets of 40 years ago, today’s mini fan jets, the throw-away, one time use type (ie: cruise missile engines) have given the industry new direction. The whole industry of jet engine manufacturers is gearing up with their version of the 100-lb. wonders.
Airport Journals has certainly carried a good share of VLJ coverage, but in order to offer quantifiable and more useful information on this emerging market, we’re conducting a study of the VLJ market. We’re interviewing large numbers of VLJ deposit holders and have started compiling data that will help answer many questions about this new market.
We’ll only publish interviews with permission, and all participants in the research will remain anonymous. If you or your company holds a deposit on a new VLJ aircraft, please log onto our website [http://www.airportjournals.com/surveys/] and find out how you can participate in our research project.
After Dr. Schreiber placed his order for an Eclipse jet, he experienced many months of excitement anticipating replacing his single-engine Piper Meridian with the revolutionary twin jet. After all, Dr. Schreiber embraced new technology, and spared no cost in equipping and building one of the leading cancer treatment centers in the country, specializing in the treatment of prostate and breast cancer. His prop jet had given him the ability to travel on his own schedule to acquire the latest techniques and develop the highest level of successful cancer treatment.
When Eclipse announced a change in their engine selection, Dr. Schreiber switched his deposit to a Cessna Mustang jet. Although this smallest of the Citation jets represented a significant increase in price over the Eclipse, Dr. Schreiber said that Cessna’s leading market position and experience tipped the scales. Cessna accepted more than 75 deposits in the first week of offering the new Citation Mustang, and Eclipse claims over two thousand reservations for their new Eclipse 500.
Adam Aircraft has been flying their new A-700 for over a year and reports strong advance sales for their VLJ entry.
Excel-Jet and Diamond Aircraft are both building a single-engine, five-passenger jet. Cirrus and Lancair are developing strategies to enter the VLJ fray. Aviation Technology Group will probably have flown the first flight of the Javelin by the time you read this. Honda has built two unique prototype light jets and like several other more traditional and established aircraft manufacturers are at the ready—to move on the market as it proves itself.
General aviation is at the beginning of a most exciting time, small by the huge piston production numbers of the l970s, but more significant when combined with the safety, economy and reliability of turbine power.
Our March 15 Jet Preview at the Scottsdale Air Center was fantastic. Nearly 1,400 guests attended, several aircraft were sold at the show and many good leads were generated for the exhibitors. Mark your calendars for our show at Addison Airport April 22. We’d like to make this North Texas’ premier show for 2005. Check our website [http://www.airportjournals.com] for more details.