For all of you who are considering pilot training and a career as a pilot, well, your opportunities are just about to get exponentially greater. A new breed of plane is arriving this fall, promising air-taxi services and jets for smaller companies -- and this means there will be a significantly greater need for pilots.
With three "Very Light Jets" (VLJ) in production, two of which will begin deliveries in the next few months, and more than 3,000 orders booked, a new age in aviation is just beginning. VLJs won't revolutionize air travel, but they will create new options for travelers. They likely will be an alternative for the corporate fleets of big companies and also a cheaper way to send an executive to a meeting 500 miles away than using a bigger jet with transcontinental range.
Already they are enticing a few medium-sized companies, such as advertising agencies and law firms, to get their own corporate planes, and entrepreneurs who fly themselves for business and recreation. About half the orders to-date are from companies that want to start air-taxi services, to fly business people, for example, to small towns without the hassle of long drives or lengthy airline connections.
Nothing about the design of the VLJ is so radical that safety is expected to be a concern; all have been tested rigorously prior to government certification. What is different is who will be flying them -- the jet cockpit is now more open to less-experienced pilots.
They are also less expensive than the standard business jet. The Cessna Mustang costs about USD2.6 million (50% less than the smallest Cessna Citation), the Adam A700 costs USD2.25 million and the Eclipse 500 is just USD1.5 million. Already Eclipse has orders for more than 2,500 jets. That's twice as many business jets that Cessna has delivered in the past six years.
And that's not all. Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer known for its regional airline jets, havs taken more than 240 firm orders for its small jets, which won't even start flight testing until mid-2007. Honda Motor (yes, the auto manufacturer) is getting into the airplance business with a HondaJet, a prototype of which has already been flying for the past three years. Canadian manufacturer, Diamond Aircraft, just this July introduced a five-seat personal jet priced at USD1.4 million. And Cirrus Design is working on a single-engine jet with a safety parachute for the entire plane, with an estimated price tag of USD1 million.