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Very light jet

see also: List of very light jets

A very light jet (VLJ), previously known as a microjet, is, by convention, a small jet aircraft approved for single-pilot operation, seating 4-8 people, with a maximum take-off weight of under . They are lighter than what is commonly termed business jets and are frequently used as air taxis.

Development

A number of designs are currently in development, and will feature advanced avionics with glass cockpit technology. VLJs are intended to have lower operating costs than conventional jets, and will be able to operate from runways as short as . In the United States, where the majority of these jets are being designed, NASA and the FAA have encouraged their development and foresee their widespread use in point-to-point air taxi service. The Small Aircraft Transportation System would provide air service to areas ignored by airlines.

These "on-demand" air taxi services depend on low cost projections and high demand to become a reality. The viability of these services is the subject of much debate among industry experts. Richard Aboulafia, an aviation industry expert and a self-described "VLJ agnostic", believes that the VLJ phenomenon may turn out to be one of the greatest disappointments in the aviation industry, due to the hype and economic infeasibility of large-scale air-taxi operations.

In total, over 3,000 VLJs have been ordered from three manufacturers. Cessna Aircraft Company, based in Wichita, Kansas, delivered the first ever production VLJ, the six-seater Citation Mustang, to Mustang Management Group of Fresno, California on November 23, 2006. Cessna has over 500 orders for the Mustang, mainly from owner-operators. Cessna received full certification for the Mustang on September 8, 2006. Cessna received FAA certification to fly into "known icing conditions" on November 9, 2006. Cessna received its FAA Production Certificate for the Mustang on November 23, 2006.

Eclipse Aviation, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has 2,500 of its Eclipse 500 aircraft on back order. Eclipse received their full certification for their Eclipse 500 three weeks after Cessna's Mustang on September 30, 2006. Eclipse expects to receive certification for flight into known icing conditions in 2007. Eclipse has announced that they intend to deliver 515 airplanes in 2007 and eventually plan to have a production capacity of 4 airplanes per day. In a letter to customers and investors, Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn on November 26, 2006 addressed concerns that the company had not yet delivered its first aircraft. Raburn explained that the delay was caused because the FAA was concerned about the Eclipse not meeting conformity requirements, but he wrote that he still expected Eclipse to deliver the planned 10 aircraft in 2006. Eclipse did not meet Raburn's delivery expectation, but they were eventually able to deliver a single copy of its VLJ on December 31, 2006. The official delivery ceremony and keys were handed over on January 4, 2007. Eclipse has now received its FAA production certificate and has been delivering more certified VLJ's since.

Adam Aircraft announced that they had an order backlog of 282 of its Adam A700 VLJ offering. At the time Adam folded on February 11, 2008, Adam had a prototype plane flying, with full certification expected later that year.

Florida-based air taxi provider DayJet, which on October 3, 2007 began its Eclipse 500 service, planed to operate more than 1,000 of the VLJs within five years. Dayjet ceased operations on September 19, 2008.

Interior amenities

A New York Times article from August 29, 2006 posed the question, "Will having a lavatory on board be the key factor in short flight success?" A July 2006 NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams broadcast also discussed the issue of the Eclipse 500's lack of a toilet. Passengers needing to relieve themselves on the Eclipse 500 will be required to bring along a portable container. Eclipse Aviation's CEO Vern Raburn suggests that most of his company's customers will be using the VLJ for short flights from 300-500 miles in length in 40-80 minutes and that the lavatory issue is not going to be a problem for VLJ customers. The Eclipse 500 has the option of an electric flush, remove to service lavatory with a privacy curtain, but this option comes at the expense of one passenger seat.

Rick Adam, CEO of Adam Aviation, disagrees and says, "people are not going to get on a plane without a bathroom, at least they are not going to do it more than once". The Adam A700 has a 7 seater configuration with rear lavatory with a privacy curtain. The Cessna Mustang also has an emergency toilet, but it is located between the cockpit and cabin. The Embraer Phenom 100 offers a fully enclosed lavatory with a solid door. These toilet-equipped planes are considerably more expensive than the Eclipse, but they may be preferable for owners, especially those planning on using their jet's full range. The new air taxi service companies, which make up the bulk of the Eclipse orders, have done surveys that show that having a toilet is not a concern for most of their passengers. The CEO of DayJet says that even if his company outgrows the Eclipse 500 in the future, he will also have his company's larger planes configured without a toilet.

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