Airlines Worry Smaller Jets May Transform Flying

Taking off for the first time this year will be small, speedy, cheap jets that big airlines worry will cause traffic jams around major metropolitan areas.

Others dismiss VLJs as so much pie in the sky.

NASA, which has been promoting VLJ technology, asked the National Research Council to report in 2002 on the feasibility of the concept. A committee of retired aviation industry executives and academics gave it the thumbs-down.

"The committee does not share NASA's vision," the report said, noting that aircraft could never be affordable for large numbers of people and businesses. It further concluded that they wouldn't attract passengers if they didn't serve big cities, and they couldn't use small airports that don't have navigation aids, control towers and radar. Noise would keep them away from small airports that did have such equipment, the report said.

Walker predicted the jets will appeal to wealthy businessmen eager to avoid the unpleasant and time-consuming experience of getting to an airplane at a busy airport. "It's uber-first class," he said.

Raburn differed from that characterization. "It's uber-convenience," he said.


On the Net:

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