2007 Marks the Beginning of the Very Light Jet Era

Business aviation will get much attention in 2007 as several manufacturers plan to bring their new "very light jets" to the market.

According to a forecast by Honeywell Aerospace, an average of 250 so-called VLJs will be delivered annually over the next decade.

The federal government projects higher numbers.

Typically, VLJs have one pilot, weigh less than 10,000 pounds, and are powered by two engines, each about the size of a washing machine. They'll seat two to six passengers, and feature highly automated cockpits. They'll cost $1.5 million to $4 million -- less than corporate jets now on the market.

While some companies and wealthy individuals are likely to use them for convenience not available in commercial aviation, the big use of VLJs could be as air taxis. Several companies are developing plans to provide on-demand flying between non-commercial airports.

The first VLJ, a Cessna Citation Mustang will go into service this year. Eclipse Aviation, a start-up with historical ties to Microsoft and Symantec, also expects to deliver its first Eclipse 500 this year.

The expected boom in business aviation goes beyond VLJs. The Teal Group, a consulting firm in Fairfax, Va., projects that 1,087 corporate jets will be built in 2007, up 34% from 2006. Honeywell expects deliveries of business jets in 2007 to top 1,000 for the first time.

At the other end of the spectrum, Singapore Airlines expects to be the first to fly the massive Airbus A380 in 2007. The superjumbo can accommodate more than 500 passengers.

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