Smaller Jets Shake Up Private Plane Biz

A new smaller aircraft could make private air travel more available for the less-wealthy.


Raburn's high expectations hinge largely on the air-taxi industry, a large portion of the company's projected sales - 60 percent of which are targeting the commercial market. Air-taxi proponents say that with the low-cost technology of the new jets, there is a great opportunity to bring businesspeople who normally drive into short-haul jet travel.

DayJet plans to fly over 300 Eclipse jets in two years. The company wants to expand into Georgia, and throughout the Southeast after that.

DayJet is basing its franchise on snatching business travelers from the highways by providing on-demand travel between smaller airports. The cost will be equivalent to a standard airline ticket, plus the cost of an overnight stay - which DayJet will render unnecessary, Chief Executive Ed Iacobucci said.

"This is for the middle-niche, middle-tier of travelers that don't have any options," Iacobucci said. "New people will be coming to the plate that otherwise wouldn't have been flying."

Still, Cessna doesn't believe the air-taxi industry is feasible, and so it didn't develop its jet planning to sell a high percentage of them for commercial aviation.

That's the main marketing difference between the two companies with the earliest start in the market. Cessna doesn't need success with the jets to survive, because it is a subsidiary of Textron, which makes everything from jets and helicopters to golf carts and surveillance systems.

"Most of the hype on the VLJ is based on the air-taxi market emerging quickly and we do not subscribe to that," Cessna spokesman Bob Stangarone said. "This industry is evolutionary not revolutionary, so we're not going to see an immediate incorporation of thousands of these airplanes into the infrastructure."

Cessna believes it will corner much of the market on sales for corporate travel and individual owner/operators.

If the air-taxi industry stumbles, jet makers will have to depend on existing corporate fliers, or hope their low prices bring in new aviation customers.

That could mean trouble for high-end business jet producers like Gulfstream Aerospace, which sells aircraft ranging from $13 million to $46 million. But the unit of General Dynamics Corp. isn't concerned.

"We have no intention of getting in (the market)," Gulfstream spokesman Robert Baugniet said. "The more people who appreciate the utility and value of business jets the more happy we are because they will probably grow and we can help them."


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