Launching a new era for the 70-year-old lightplane manufacturer, Piper Aircraft president and CEO Jim Bass last month took the wraps off the design mockup for the single-engine, six-seat PiperJet, an airplane priced at $2.19 million that adds another serious player to the market for very light jets.
Very light jets
On December 11 the first Eclipse 500 certification flight-test aircraft, N503EA, rolled out from the start-up manufacturer’s Albuquerque, N.M. facility. Though the very light jet emerged from the plant with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofan engines, one was a “flight on ground” engine that was swapped out about a week later with an airworthy powerplant before the first flight, which was “imminent” as of December 22.
The Eclipse 500 program continued to gain steam last month with the successful first flights of the second (N502EA) and third (N504EA) certification flight-test aircraft. They join N503EA, the first Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F-powered Eclipse 500, which has been flying since December 31.
Peter Mauer, president of Diamond Aircraft’s North American division, last month said components of the single-engine Diamond D-Jet were taking shape in anticipation of an October first flight. At press time, the fuselage, wing spars and skins, and vertical fin and horizontal tail for the first nonconforming prototype were complete at Diamond’s Wiener Neustadt, Austria headquarters.
Eclipse Aviation is now putting the finishing touches on its very light jet (VLJ) pilot training program. Planned in coordination with the United Services division of United Airlines, the program will bring a different philosophy and a marked change of emphasis to bear on flight training as we have known it in the past.
Colorado-based Excel Jet selected the 1,500-pound-thrust FJ33-4A turbofan for the single-engine Sport-Jet. Previously, Excel Jet said the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615F would power the very light jet.
The Cessna Citation Mustang prototype made its first flight from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita on April 23 at 10:26 a.m. CDT. Test pilots Scotty Jergenson and Dave Bonifield flew the very light jet (VLJ) on a 2.5-hour mission, climbing to 11,000 feet, where the airplane underwent various stability and control tests, including cycling of the landing gear, flaps and speed brakes. The flight concluded at 12:47 p.m.
It was a close race, but in the end Brazilian airplane builder Embraer chose the Garmin G1000 avionics system for the company’s in-development very light jet and light jet, now known officially as the Phenom 100 and 300.
Adam Aircraft’s A700 VLJ is “moving along swiftly,” company president Joe Walker said last month at the NBAA Convention. Orders for the $2.25 million A700, as of September 30, stood at 282 aircraft, including 57 individual sales, 75 for air-limo start-up Pogo and 150 for other undisclosed air-limo operators. Certification of the A700 is on track for the fourth quarter of next year, Walker said.
First flight of Diamond Aircraft’s D-Jet has apparently slipped from this past October to sometime next year, according to the company’s Web site. A Diamond spokesman did not return repeated telephone calls seeking a reason for the delay in the very light jet’s progress. One press report from the AOPA Convention last month quoted a company representative saying that the D-Jet would fly in March.