While the FAA drastically reduced its estimate about the number of very light jets (VLJs) to take to the air in the next decade, comments and speeches at the agency’s 31st annual forecast conference in Washington early last month indicate there will be changes in the way the aviation industry pays for operating the nation’s airspace system.
Increasing demand for private aircraft charter in the Arabian Gulf states is drawing new operators into the market, and many of these firms are based in the region’s commercial hub, Dubai.
The spate of high-profile business aviation accidents a little more than a year ago, many of which were Part 135 flights, has prompted industry experts to search for a link that might prevent the same events from happening in the future. There has been little public outcry for more government oversight because most consumers of corporate and charter aviation believe it probably already exists.
When Charles Lindbergh single-handedly flew his airplane across the Atlantic in 1927, there was little for the not-yet-famous aviator to plan before the journey; his weather information was based on twice-daily reports from ships at sea and meteorological stations on land. Other than a passport, the French cared little about his papers.
As the industry prepares for very light jets (VLJs) to live up to their billing to transform personal transportation, air-taxi and charter operations, members of the Aviation Insurance Association recently gathered for their annual conference in Grapevine, Texas, to consider risk exposure implications and market opportunities if the VLJ phenomenon turns its promoters’ rosiest visions into reality.
The very light jets (VLJs) are coming. Smaller than what have thus far been regarded as entry-level business jets, most VLJs offer a passenger capacity of about six, a range of a little more than 1,000 nm, cruise speed of about 350 knots, and price tags ranging from about $1.3 million to a shade more than $2.25 million.
The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has developed a safety-management system for air charter firms. Components of the system include pilot online training, safety audits, collection and analysis of incident and accident data, live Webcasts, regulatory compliance guidance, risk management and more than 30 other safety-related elements.
As anticipation builds over the pending certification of the first very light jet, the Eclipse 500, “There’s a new sense of legitimacy for the idea of personalized air mobility in the form of per-seat fleet operations [using VLJs],” according to NASA Langley advance planning office director Bruce Holmes. “After all, mobility is freedom, and the big picture of the VLJ is individualized air travel.”
Do not fly any more illegal charters.
That is what the FAA, since March 2 last year, has attempted to tell Platinum Jet Management of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Finally, on June 12, the Department of Transportation issued a consent order in which Platinum Jet agreed to stop flying illegal charters, without admitting that it had broken any laws.
CharterX, a large online charter facilitator, has acquired air charter audit firm Wyvern Consulting of Palmyra, N.J. Through Portland, Ore.-based CharterX, charter operators and brokers can market aircraft and trips. CharterX founder and president Jim Betlyon said Wyvern will continue to perform “separate” and “unbiased” safety evaluations. He told AIN that non-Wyvern-recommended operators will not be excluded from the CharterX network.