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The Age of Very Light Jets

The age of very-light jets is upon us. You can call them microjets, entry-level jets or very light personal jets; but these aircraft are small, single-pilot operated and designed to seat 4-8 people, with a maximum take-off weight of under 10,000 pounds. As an aviation professional and an artist, I’m intrigued by these lean, aesthetically crafted machines which sometimes look like they are from another world.




The age of very-light jets (VLJ) is upon us. You can call them microjets, entry-level jets or very light personal jets; but these aircraft are small, single-pilot operated and designed to seat 4-8 people, with a maximum take-off weight of under 10,000 pounds. They are lighter than what is commonly termed business jets, and can operate into smaller airports with 3000 feet runways. As an aviation professional and an artist, I’m intrigued by these lean, aesthetically crafted machines which sometimes look like they are from another world. With the exception of the Embraer Phenom and the Piper Jet which were already featured, here’s a list of VLJs that may show up at your airport one day:

Cirrus Vision SF50

Cirrus Vision SF50

Cirrus Vision SF50 is a single-engine, low-wing, seven-seater aircraft clocking in at 6000 pounds. The prototype aircraft was first flown on 3 July 2008. It cruises at 300 knots, climbs at 3000 feet per minute, and the service ceiling is 25,000 feet. The Vision SF50 is priced at about US$1.7 M and deliveries will begin in 2012.

Eclipse 400

Eclipse 400

The Eclipse 400 was first flown back in July 2007, and intended to compete in the single-engine jet market. The Eclipse 400 design features one engine, four seats and a v-tail similar to the Cirrus Jet. It is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofan and built in complete secrecy at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The aircraft has a cruise speed of 345 knots and a service ceiling of 41,000 ft. The MTOW is 4,800 pounds and an empty weight  of 2,000 pounds.

The Eclipse 400 was priced at $1.35 million before the manufacturer terminated development and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 25 November 2008. The production may be continued by the new owners who are continuing the Eclipse 500 program.

Diamond D-JET

Diamond D-JET

The D-JET is a composite, five-seat, single-engine jet aircraft produced by Diamond Aircraft Industries. The aircraft is undergoing flight testing, and carries a price tag of approximately US$1.9 M. It cruises at 240 knots, and takes a modest 15 minutes to get to 25,000 feet, the service ceiling.

Cessna Citation Mustang

Citation Mustang

The Citation Mustang C 510 first flew in April 2005 and received FAA certification in 2006. In standard configuration, it carries four passenger seats in the aft cabin, and seating for two in the cockpit. The Mustang has a MTOW of 8,645 pounds, cruises at 340 knots, and the service ceiling is 41,000 feet.

Hondajet HA-420

Hondajet HA-420

The HA-420 HondaJet is Honda’s first aircraft developed for the general aviation market. It made its maiden flight in December 2003 and was made public in July 2005. In July, 2006, Honda announced that it would commercialize the HondaJet, with production to take place in the United States and deliveries to begin in 2011 at a price of approximately US$3.65 M.

The HondaJet sports an unusual over-the-wing podded engine configuration, a fuselage made from lightweight composite materials, and wings made from structurally reinforced single sheets of aluminum to give the aircraft a 30-35% higher fuel efficiency than similar aircraft.

The HondaJet has a MTOW of 9,200 pounds, and seats 1-2 crew and 5 passengers. It cruises at 420 knots, and has a service ceiling of 43,000 feet.

Epic Victory

Epic Victory

The Epic Victory was the second experimental jet from Epic Aircraft, prior to its closure in 2009. It seats 4 to 5 including the pilots, and first flew in July 2007. The company had intended that the jet would be available for less than US$1 million dollars. The aircraft’s gross weight is 5,500 pounds, with an economy cruising speed of 250 knots and service ceiling of 28,000 feet.

Production may soon resume following the April 8th 2010 purchase of the assets by LT Builders Group LLC.

Conclusion

With this flurry of activities surrounding the development and production of very light jets, is this the sign of a good or bad economy, or is it something else? The one thing I know for sure is that controllers will enjoy working with these high performance aircraft. High rates of climb and descent will certainly reduce controllers’ stress level in the increasingly busy skies. In part two of the post, I shall include other VLJs competing for the same market. Stay tuned!


2 Responses

05.01.10

I am not sure “high rates of climb and descent” necessarily applies to these aircraft in general. As an approach controller, I have worked the Cessna Mustang a few times, and found its performance to be mediocre at best.

And in an enroute environment, these high but – compared to airliners – slow flyers will almost always be a nuisance.

05.01.10

I’ve worked the Mustang as an approach controller and 3000 feet per minute sits well with me. I’m not particularly impressed with the D-Jet’s performance but given the mix of traffic that operate into the airport where I work, I look forward to working with these aircraft. I agree that some of these aircraft may be a nuisance in an enroute environment, but half of them will be operating around F250 where there should not be too many aircraft operating at higher speeds.

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About Wayne Farley

Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, an aviation safety evangelist who once made my living working in the control tower. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from the aviation world. After writing "13 Characteristics of an air traffic controller" in 2010, it went viral and established me as an unofficial ambassador for ATC.

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