One of the latest innovations in the aviation world is Very Light Jets (VLJs). VLJs are jet-powered aircraft that are approved for single-pilot operation, and whose maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is below 10,000 pounds. They are designed to be lighter than business-jets. VLJs are also known as micro-jets or entry-level jets. They usually have one or two small engines and carry between four to eight passengers.
The intention of the aircraft designer was to have an aircraft with low-maintenance costs. The jets are designed to operate from small runways 3,000 feet or less. This ensures that this aircraft can either be used for personal, business, or air taxi purposes. The jets operate under the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) and target clientele not catered to by bigger airlines and charter services. In the United States alone, there are around 5,000 small-unused airports.
There are currently many models at the moment awaiting certification and others under development. Three VLJ aircraft have made it to the aviation market so far, the Cessna Citation Mustang, Embraer Phenom 100, and Eclipse 500. Other companies waiting to get into the market includes: Honda, Adam, Maverick, Aviation Technology Group, Diamond, and Spectrum Aeronautical.
The aircraft are designed to be cost friendly. They cost about half the price of medium or business jets. The engines are small and efficient. The interior of the aircrafts is designed to be comfortable for short trips, which is usually between 300 to 500 miles. The flight decks are automated or glass cockpits with the latest instrumentation and navigation tools. Lavatories are optional in some models; this however means foregoing seat space in the aircraft. The outside of the aircraft is aerodynamically designed using the latest and lightest composite materials for the best fuel efficiency.
The most common use of VLJs currently is as business transport for the corporate world. Companies that could not previously afford to own medium jets before can now purchase VLJs. Operating costs are now much lower so maintaining the aircraft is also affordable. Fractional ownership is also an option between companies, where companies split purchase and maintenance costs, then get to share the aircraft on a scheduled basis.
VLJs are now the favourite aircraft of choice for aviation start-up companies. Purchase or lease of the aircrafts is much lower than with traditional airplanes. Getting clients to fill up the 6-seater is much easier than for larger jets. Staffing is also cheaper because you only have one pilot and no cabin crew. Service is personal and tailored to meet the passenger’s needs.
Bigger aircraft have higher fuel and maintenance costs. Major aviation companies have now begun considering these small jets as a viable option. With many companies concentrating on efficiency and cost lowering factors because of lower travel volumes and high competition. VLJs are increasingly becoming a good option.