Very Light Jets: Boom or Blip?

Most of the buzz is focused on those planes priced at the "low" end, which will begin hitting the market this summer.

Customer training for Eclipse 500 owners will be provided by United Airlines in what the company calls "the most comprehensive training program ever offered in general aviation." The FAA requires pilots of jet aircraft to receive a "type" rating in the aircraft. The company says coursework will include "significant" pre-class-room training that features an introduction to jet aircraft operation, Eclipse 500 systems, and unexpected situations. United will use full-motion simulators to evaluate pilots' flying skills and to provide training, and will furnish "mentor pilots" to fly with Eclipse 500 owners for a certain period of time after the training is complete. Follow-up training will take place every six months or 12 months, depending on the pilot's proficiency.   Cessna and Adam

On the heels of the Eclipse 500 will be the six-seat Cessna Mustang, with a demonstration aircraft out later this year and first customer deliveries in early 2007. The $ 3-million aircraft, powered by twin PW610F turbofans, will cruise as fast as 340 kt, as high as 41,000 ft, and as far as 1,500 n.mi. The Wichita-based company reports orders for more than 230 aircraft, 80% of which are for individual owners who will fly the aircraft for business or pleasure.

Cessna is preparing a specialized training program through FlightSafety International, a training company with 230 FAA-certified flight simulators in 43 locations in the U.S., Canada, France, and the U.K. Like Eclipse's program, Cessna's will include mentoring of new Mustang pilots by experienced business jet pilots for a certain number of hours. Cessna says the Mustang's "single-pilot design philosophy will make the transition from a single- or multi-engine propeller-driven aircraft very easy." The company plans to build 50 aircraft in 2007, 100 in 2008, and 150 in 2009.

About the same time that the first Mustang is delivered, Adam Aircraft expects to deliver its first six- to eight-seat, $ 2.1-million A700 Adam-Jet, a derivative of its A500 twin turboprop. Powered by two Williams FJ33-4A turbofans, the aircraft is designed to fly as fast as 340 kt, as high as 41,000 ft, and as far as 1,400 n.mi. The company, based in Englewood, Colo., says it has orders for 61 aircraft for owner/operators and 225 for fleets.

Pilots transitioning to the aircraft will be required to have a private pilot's license, instrument and multiengine ratings, and total flight time of 500 hr or more; they must also attend an A700 type rating course lasting a minimum of 20 hr. Like the others, Adam will also require new A700 pilots to fly with a mentor pilot for 50-125 hr, depending on the new pilot's skills. Air taxi startup Pogo has orders for 75 aircraft, and European fractional operator Nexus has orders for 100 planes, according to company founder and CEO, Rick Adam. Adam plans to build 70 aircraft in 2007 and 120 a year after that.

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