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The number of Very Light Jets flying these days – all prototypes – falls far short of making them common sights. However- the number of prototypes flying today does far exceed those of a few short months back. There are more to come – particularly as the 2006 finish line approaches for three companies developing

Dave Higdon   |   1st July 2005
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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First VLJs near their 2006 finish lines- with more to come.

The number of Very Light Jets flying these days – all prototypes – falls far short of making them common sights. However- the number of prototypes flying today does far exceed those of a few short months back. There are more to come – particularly as the 2006 finish line approaches for three companies developing airplanes for sale in this all-new category of business jet. Big backlogs for the earliest finishers mean that by this time next year- dozens of the earliest customers should be happily flying their newest acquisitions; subsequent certifications mean more new wings on more new ramps.

As other programs reach their conclusions in 2007 and beyond- the number of VLJs flying promises a minor explosion in the number and variety of these personal-size turbofans. So attractive are these new business jets for sale that forecasters predict numbers as high as 8-000 and as low as 6-000 in the coming 10 years.

Within 15 years the VLJ population of North America conceivably could exceed the total number of all other business jet aircraft for sale categories. Hundreds of companies and communities will find themselves beneficiaries of business aviation in ways far exceeding what they experience today.

On-Demand Taxis- Small-town Access- and more... In the nearly 10 years since the concept of a very light jet class started to show potential (thanks to new- smaller engines)- many theories about their potential have floated by – among them the recurring vision of fleets of these small aircraft serving as low-cost conveyances in on-demand- point-to-point air taxi services. In fact- to date two such companies have launched- with one already gone and a new one formed by veterans of the U.S. airline industry. Entrepreneurial efforts aside- however- orders from individual businesses and individual pilots far outpace those ordered for revenue-generating operations- a factor of the pilot-friendly nature aircraft in this class universally embrace. In other words- this new class of turbofan aircraft for sale holds promise for businesses and individuals previously unable to justify the benefits of a jet.

The same traits that make VLJs attractive to individuals hold great appeals for business operators. For example- all the jets in this burgeoning class offer single-pilot IFR as a selling point.

Although the company planning on the point-to-point air-taxi service plans to fly its VLJs with two pilots (and likewise- many corporate operators will prefer the safety of two qualified aviators on the flight deck to the savings of using only one)- thousands of other companies that already operate aircraft for business safely with a single pilot will see the VLJs offer a step-up without a step-up increase in personnel costs.

Ditto for many business owners and individuals flying themselves on business – mostly alone- IMC or VMC. The VLJ class offers other attractions too- including universal embrace of solid-state- digital flight instruments- the latest integrated aircraft avionics and GPS navigation system supplier with near-precision-approach capabilities in instrument conditions.

Couple these modern advances with a plethora of new manufacturing techniques and advanced materials and you get airplanes with acquisition and operating costs as low as some piston twins – and- at the worst- operating costs below those of most propjet singles. Throw in the high speed- high efficiency and broad flexibility of these aircraft and the results beg a question: Can anyone fail to understand the appeal these jets hold for forward-looking flyers and firms?

The details you need to answer that question follow- starting with the designs closest to the finish line.


Hot off the first public air-show appearance at Sun ‘n Fun in April of the Eclipse 500 business jets for sale- manufacturer Eclipse Aviation announced the first flights of a third prototype – less than two months after first flight of its second and less than four months behind the maiden flight of its first conformal prototype on December 31- 2004.

In parallel to that announcement- the company affirmed its plans to certificate its innovative little jet by March 31- 2006. Supporting those plans was the expected addition of a fourth flying prototype in June- and a fifth by the end of this month.

In early June Eclipse reported that the three test aircraft combined for a total of 105 hours flown across 87 test flights.

Currently priced at $1.4 million (in 2005 dollars) after a recent price adjustment- the Eclipse 500 business jets for sale remains among the price leaders of the VLJ pack and its operating costs also remain among the lowest. Indeed- on pure operating costs- alone- the Eclipse 500 offers $0.69 per mile thanks to the fuel efficiency of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F powerplants and the aerodynamics of airframe that produce the 500’s 375-knot cruise speed.

Of course- hourly operating costs won’t directly compare between the six-place piston and six-place jet; the 500 cruises at 370 knots – nearly twice the true airspeed of the piston.

Size- weight and price aren’t the only aspects comparable between the Eclipse 500 for sale and the $-million-plus Beech Baron 58- just as size and weight aren’t the only comparable traits with the New Piper Seneca V piston engine aircraft for sale. For example- the Eclipse is an all-aluminum airframe – one built using the first such application of Friction Stir Welding- a technique that eschews upwards of 70 percent of the fasteners used in aluminum airframes manufactured using more-conventional methods.

The jet and the piston twins also compare in runway performance- which means almost any airport with the length needed for the light twins can accommodate the Eclipse 500- as well – and that’s the overwhelming majority of all U.S. public-use runways. With a stall speed of 67 knots- approaches into even the smallest available airports should be a comfortable exercise.

The scales tip toward the Eclipse 500 for sale in other areas too- including the jet’s ability to cruise high in the flight levels – well above most weather and in the comfort of a pressurized cabin. And the still-air range for the 500 is a healthy 1-280 nautical miles- much better than either of the twins.

More information from www.eclipseaviation.com

CESSNA AIRCRAFT: Citation Mustang

The most-recent addition to the VLJ family that have entered flight-tests- Cessna’s lightest jet – the Mustang - made its maiden flight in April. Since then it has been busy logging hours in an effort to win certification in the first half of 2006.

The little jet progressed rapidly through its initial inventory of tasks. Between the first flight (April 23) and May 2- the Mustang prototype turned in an impressive 19 flights totaling a hefty 36 hours of test flying. Tasks accomplished in that period spanned all Mustang systems. Tests started on the Garmin G1000 integrated avionics system- the 1-350-pounds-thrust Pratt & Whitney PW615F engines and their Full Authority Digital Electronic Controls (FADEC).

The Mustang also cleared its interim flight envelope at speeds up to 200 KIAS and 0.63 Mach to its maximum certified altitude at FL410. When approved- the Mustang should cruise at 340 knots true and span more than 1-100 nautical nonstop.

Cessna’s rapid progress supports the timetable for certification – due in the first half of 2006 – and moves the program closer to delivering the first of the 230-plus airplanes on order.

'The Citation Mustang is getting off to a great start-' said Jack J. Pelton- Cessna’s chairman- president and CEO shortly after tests began. 'We were able to complete first flight ahead of schedule- and during the first two weeks of flight testing we have not lost any flights due to mechanical or system failures.'

Tests on an 'Iron Bird' fatigue article begin in July and end once the test item hits 75-000 cycles – about five times the expected life-time of the jet.

Cessna- recognizing that the Mustang would be a step-up airplane for many pilots- tapped Garmin for its G1000 Integrated Avionics System already in use on its single engine airplane for sale. The Mustang incarnation of the G1000 will sport 10-inch screens for each of the two Primary Flight Displays and a 15-inch center-mounted screen to serve as the Multifunction Display for moving maps- weather data- radio frequency and engine-status displays.

Although the airframe will be primarily aluminum- new production and manufacturing techniques helped Cessna create a jet light enough to deliver strong performance on the little engines. As a matter of fact- the Mustang stands as only the third Citation with no parts carried over from a prior model.

Again- runway numbers mean Mustangs will be able to go almost anywhere with a 3-100-foot runway.

More information from www.cessna.com


Flying for nearly two years now- Adam Aircraft’s A700 all-composite light jet has slipped in certification as the planemaker completes work to win full certification of the A500 piston twin from which the A700 was derived. Adam received preliminary approval from the FAA in May on the A500; but considerable work remains to make the piston twin useable to its potential.

The focus needed to complete the A500 will slow A700 approval- the company said earlier this year.

And with no conformal A700 prototype flying- Adam faces the entirety of a development and certification program that begins with the first production-compliant model’s first flight.

Nonetheless- the A700 offers another alternative to its competitors in areas aside from its carbon-fiber construction. The cabin is considerably larger than others in its class – the result of space available for use that on the A500 accommodated the engines in its centerline-thrust configuration. Overall- the A700 cabin – complete with an aft toilet – compares favorably to Cessna’s popular CJ1 and Beechcraft’s King Air C90.

The twin engine airplanes for sale booms and wide tail also provide greater strength- as well as solving control-surface issues by keeping the tail surfaces far from the blast of its two FJ33 engines – the first application of Williams International’s 1-200-pound-thrust powerplants.

The combination of sleek airframe and powerful- fuel-efficient engines gives the A700 an IFR range of 1-100 miles and the ability to use runways as short as 2-950 feet while cruising at 340 knots in between.

The selection of Avidyne to provide the digital flat-panel primary-flight and multi-function displays gives the A700 a state-of-the-art cockpit comparable to many larger- more expensive business jets. Garmin radios will round out the cockpit – at least until Avidyne begins to offer its own fully integrated package on a par with Garmin’s G1000. The $2.1 million price falls comfortably below the Mustang- but well above the Eclipse. Essentially- it is the A700’s distinct combination of size- speed- price and efficiency that helped convince one would-be on-demand air-taxi operator to order 75.

Now it’s down to Adams Aviation Supply Company Ltd- UK to restore momentum- progress to the program- and get the A700 ready for prime time.

More information from www.adamaircraft.com


Diamond Aircraft expects to fly the first D-JET soon- bringing the Austrian planemaker into the field of VLJ makers with prototypes in flight tests.

This sleek composite machine brings to the party several unique traits that lend it to filling a niche of its own. For example- the D-JET offers the only four-place solution in the VLJ field. Powered by one Williams International FJ33-4 at 1-300 pounds of thrust- the D-JET is also the only single in the field – for now. Additionally- the D-JET is the lightest in the batch- with a gross weight of 4-700 pounds.

All those unique traits lend themselves to the D-JET’s position as the lowest-cost VLJ. At about $850-000- it’s the only model under a million.

These things said- the D-JET offers a blend of performance that’s well matched to its likely customers. At 315 knots in cruise- the D-JET flies slightly faster than the fastest propjets. With a service ceiling of 25-000 msl- the D-JET also fits well into the pace of traffic for that altitude – where most propjets also top out. Passenger comfort should be excellent thanks to a maximum cabin altitude of 8-000 feet.

The D-JET’s low 63-knot stall speed contributes to its best-in-class status for airport performance – as little as 2-000 feet of runway beats some single engine airplane for sale- while the D-JET’s range – 1-300-plus nautical – keeps it competitive with virtually every other model in the field.

Look for certification in 2006 - and come 2007 look for a lot of happy flyers jetting around on fuel numbers that approach the best in its category.

More information from www.diamondair.com


Only the second VLJ-category aircraft coming from an established manufacturer- the ProJet benefits from the proven record of planemaker Israeli Aircraft Industries and the marketing-and-support company Avocet of Westport- Connecticut. This partnership makes the ProJet distinct among a pack hailing primarily from start-up companies populated more by experienced people than experienced institutions – Cessna and its Mustang- aside.

But in the time frame between the program’s unveiling in August 2003 and this writing (early June)- the ProJet has declined slightly in visibility as the company continues to progress toward a stated 2006 first flight and 2007 timetable for first deliveries. The partners have still not announced signing of a final contract to partner on the eight-seat jet and the company is continuing to analyze the results of a customer-based survey launched in October by Forecast International. So Avocet Aircraft still faces much of the challenge inherent in developing any all-new aircraft – in this case a $2 million VLJ.

The jet anticipated stands as the largest in its class with performance that keeps it competitive with the smaller designs- based on preliminary specifications: 365-knot cruise speed; 1-200-nautical-mile range; 7-160-pound MTOW; and a 1-400-pound maximum payload.

The developers have yet to announce a selection for the 1-300-pound-thrust powerplants or promised state-of-the-art panel; but engines and panel packages selected for other models match up well with the ProJet’s needs.

The latest statements from Avocet move back the anticipated first flight of the ProJet to 2006 with first deliveries in 2007.

More information from www.avocetprojet.com


First unveiled about three years ago- ATG’s angular two-place Javelin more closely resembles the F/A-18 or F-15 combat jets than any typical business turbine aircraft. But for the qualified executive or company owner- the Javelin’s tandem-seat configuration- twin powerplants and aerobatics-capable airframe offer the ultimate overlap between business practicality- high-speed personal transport and ‘gee-whiz’ fun machine.

After rolling out a non-conformal prototype last fall- the company has nearly finished the first conformal prototype with a second due in a few months. On May 5- the company’s flight-test department took over the Javelin and on June 3- the company announced that initial engine runs and taxi testing had been performed with the Williams International FJ33-4-15M engines. First flight is imminent as of writing. From here the company expects to start initial flight tests with as many as six Javelins flying in the program by the time certification comes in 2007… and what a plane she’ll be…

The Javelin employs an all-composite airframe- two aerobatics-capable 1-500-pound-thrust engines- and modular avionics from Avidyne Corporation.

ATG expects the Javelin to turn in the lowest operating cost of any aircraft in its speed- weight or price class. At as little as $0.79 per mile – or about $419 per hour at 530 mph (480 knots) – the direct operating costs come in at a price point even piston singles will envy.

Small though she is- however- the Javelin offers travel amenities comparable with much larger VLJ designs. The luggage space can carry up to 200 pounds – with space left over for clothing and briefcases after storing two golf bags.

Even at its best-in-class 480-knot cruise speed and 1-200-nautical range- the Javelin won’t win over buyers needing something more conventional. But for the business and executive capable of using the Javelin as a tool- nothing will be as efficient – or as sexy.

The Denver-based company expects certification and deliveries in 2006.

More information from www.avtechgroup.com


MIA: Aerostar- Safire- Century Unfortunately- three programs profiled here in past years seem dormant- with websites unchanged – for years- in one case – no new news and no responses.

So for now- we must treat the AeroStar FJ-100- Century Jet and Safire as MIA – missing in aviation. Too bad- too - all three had competitive numbers- if not realistic prospects for success.

New Arrival: Sport-Jet

Nevertheless- since aviation seems to abhor a vacuum as much as Nature- we’re pleased to note the arrival of another new program: Excel-Jet Ltd. and its Sport-Jet. Another single- this design sports an all-composite fuselage with metal wings and tail surfaces – somewhat like Raytheon Aircraft’s Premier I and Hawker Horizon models. The Colorado-based company claims the new Sport-Jet will sell for less than $1 million- cruise at 340 knots- climb to 25-000 feet and carry four on legs exceeding 1-000 nautical miles. In a unique decision for this class- Excel-Jet plans to equip the Sport-Jet with an integrated emergency parachute supplemental safety system similar to that installed on all piston models from Cirrus Design Corporation. If successful- Excel-Jet will be the first jet maker to offer such a back-up system on a jet.

The company hopes to be delivering Sport-Jets to customers in about two years.

More information from www.sport-jet.com

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