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Entry-Level Jets:
Big capabilities- small packages.

When considering ownership of a business jet- the Entry Level category offers the ‘lowest available’ from every perspective. Providing it can meet the needs of the majority of your company’s travel requirements and cabin size is not an issue- the maximum flexibility and minimum financial impact can bring the best of Business Aviation to your corporation’s doorstep.

Acolleague telephoned recently to relate his experience as a passenger on a Large Cabin corporate aircraft. The mission had been to deliver a site-inspection team for an expanding company.

The colleague was surprised to learn that another airport than the one he’d landed at was adjacent to the inspection site.

His Large Cabin business jet had in fact landed 30 miles away- and a van was required to take the group to their final destination.

The runway at the adjacent site was 3-000 feet long and 35 feet wide - enough to manage a smaller airplane- but on this occasion his larger cabin jet required more landing distance and therefore needed to use an airport further away.

Ultimately the Entry-Level/Very Light Jet (VLJ) category of aircraft reviewed here offer access to the broadest selection of destinations in jet ownership- with runway needs that top at about 3-500 feet for the models in our category.

My colleague hit one of the key elements that make small business jets ideal for many business operators: smaller can be smarter. It’s a fact that small jets offer all the same capabilities as large jets- but in smaller increments – and- with some acknowledged adjustments:
• Small Jets can fly anywhere the bigger models can- but they may need more stops and routing that is far from direct;
• Beyond their ability to go into any airport the larger jets can visit- smaller jets enjoy access to hundreds more locations that larger models cannot access;
• Small Jets fly fast enough to negate speed differences on trips of 500 to 600 miles- although longer trips will take longer; and
• They can carry weights equal to the load typically carried on the average business aircraft mission.

When one factors the cost advantages – acquisition- operating- maintaining and housing a smaller jet – it becomes easy to see why smaller jets are a dominant force in business flying: they work well. Business jets from Cessna- Cirrus- Diamond- Eclipse- Embraer- Honda and Piper offer variations on these themes. While not currently in production- the Eclipse 500- for example- exemplifies an effort to extend business jet access downward to a broader population of owner-pilots/businessmen.

The Cirrus SF50 Vision- Diamond D-JET and PiperJet Altaire – all of which are in development – mirror that same philosophy. Cessna’s Mustang and Embraer’s Phenom 100- meanwhile- occupy the lower rung in the size scale among certificated and in-production jets.

What they all share are low prices (under $4 million- with Diamond’s and Cirrus’ aircraft currently selling at under $2 million) and capabilities that position them as significant step-ups from the dominant Turboprop and Piston Twin options.

Cruise speeds range from as low as 300 knots for the single-engine Cirrus to 370 knots for the twin-engine Citation Mustang and Embraer Phenom 100. Fuel consumption is- of course- at the low end of the scale- and most are eligible for single-pilot operations- making them available to owner/pilots and frugal flight departments willing to tackle the additional training and qualification work needed to use them to their full potential.

The Entry Level Jet Retail Price Guide (below) represents current values published in the Aircraft Bluebook - Price Digest (unless stated). With the reader’s knowledge of aircraft- equipment- range and performance- the following guide should allow the reader to determine the best value for consideration.

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