Home' Asian Aviation : AAV Sept 2010 Contents 30 AsianAviation | SEPTEMBER 2010
The global financial meltdown
hit general and business aviation
harder than perhaps any other
sector of the industry. And within
those sectors, the worst-a ected
programmes were very-light jets
(VLJs), which had been seen as having so much
promise for much of the past decade.
VLJs, defined by the US Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) as having a maximum take-
o weight of less than 10,000lb (4.540kg), were seen
as a way for those rich enough to a ord a personal
aircra to avoid airport hassles. At the same time,
the public was excited by the idea of personal aircra
and aerospace enthusiasts were enthralled by the
advanced engine technolog y.
e VLJs did have their opponents, however, who
feared the consequences of a surge in the number
of private owner-pilots as the entry-level price of
the aircra fell to about US$1 million. At the same
time, environmentalists warned of the ecological
consequences of a boom in private jet ownership.
e aircra ranged in capacity between 4 and 10
seats, but most seated six people, including the pilot.
e VLJ aircra category was seen as easy to enter,
and market forecasts from Honeywell suggested
demand for more than 10,000 units over a decade.
But then the credit crunched, and the VLJ bubble
burst. In late 2008, the sector's poster-child Eclipse
Aviation -- a start-up manufacturer seen as the very
cutting edge of an aviation revolution -- went into
bankruptcy protection. By March, the company 's
assets were up for sale.
By the time the company collapsed, it had already
sold 2,000 of its Eclipse 500 jets and delivered 260.
e aircra had been favoured by many companies
that wanted to operate it as an air taxi, with about
two -thirds of orders coming from charter operators
interested in the pay-per-segment taxi business
model. Most of the customers -- many in the USA
and Western Europe, some in Asia -- had paid a non-
refundable deposit of US$100,000 per aircra .
But hope remains for the programme. In September
2009, a group of Eclipse owners, former deposit
holders and investors formed Eclipse Aerospace
(EAI), which purchased the assets of the former
Eclipse Aviation for US$20 million in cash and
an additional US$20 million in notes. e new
company's goal was to restart production of the EA-
"To date, our e orts have met with great success,"
said EAI Chairman and Chief Executive O cer
Mason Holland. "Eclipse jets are ying around the
world and have accumulated over 42,000 safe ight
hours. Our factory and factory-authorised ser vice
centres are supporting the eet and our vendors
are working with EAI as parts are now available to
support the eet of over 260 Eclipse jets."
Holland added that the company is now o ering
a limited number of factory-reconditioned Total
Eclipse 500 aircra for sale.
Priced at US$2.15 million, the aircra includes
four major upgrades, allowing ight into known
icing conditions, a 41,000 ceiling , a 20,000-cycle
airframe lifespan and additional new systems such
as colour radar, Jeppesen eCharts and a moving map
No rm decision has yet been taken on restarting
production of the VLJ, which will depend on the
results of a fresh market analysis and the results of
negotiations with suppliers.
EAI has been o ering a guaranteed buy-back
to a limited number of Total Eclipse customers
-- promising to allow the buyer to trade in the
upgraded aircra in part payment for a new-build
aircra once production is under way. Current EA-
500 owners are also being o ered US$1-1.7 million
to trade their aircra in for a Total Eclipse variant.
According to the manufacturer, the EA-500 can
cruise at speeds of 370 knots (685kmh), travelling
further than 1,100 nautical miles non-stop, while
burning as little as 48 gallons of fuel per hour. e
aircra is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada
(P&WC) PW610F turbofans.
Apart from the EA-500, only two VLJs are certi cated
and delivered to customers: the Cessna Citation
Mustang and Embraer's Phenom 100. Although the
manufacturers prefer to even avoid referring to them
In the words of analyst and National Business
Aviation Association (NBAA) member Brian Foley:
" e term VLJ was at times tainted by ... unrealistic
expectations and eve failure. e industry would
do well to drop hyped words in order to improve
credibility with users."
True to this philosophy, both Cessna and Embraer
use the term "entry-level" jet to describe their
Cessna's Citation Mustang recently achieved a
milestone in Asia, gaining certi cation from India's
Director General of Civil Aviation. Originally
certi cated by the FAA in 2006, the Mustang now
has approval in more than 60 countries.
" e Mustang is well suited for operations in India,
due to its range and performance," said Trevor Esling ,
Cessna's vice-president of international Citation sales.
Powered by two P&WC PW615F engines, the 4-5
passenger Mustang can cruise at 340 knots and o ers
a range of 1,167 nautical miles at its maximum take-
Don't mention the VLJ
The term 'VLJ' has become tainted by association with excessive expectations and high-profile bankruptcies.
Yet the concept may still prove sound, writes Andrzej Jeziorski.
Cessna's Citation Mustang has now obtained certification in India.
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