V ery Light Jets (VLJs) are state-of-the-art compact business jets that cost a fraction of the price of a standard corporate private jet...
Very Light Jets are capable of carrying 4-5 passengers on shorter range flights of up to about 1,200 miles.
The lower costs of VLJs makes private jet travel slightly more affordable and accessible. They can be operated by a single pilot and can land on very short runways making them ideal for use as an air taxi or reduced cost jet charter.
A number of executive jet manufacturers launched VLJ aircraft with mixed success:
The Eclipse 500 was the first VLJ available to the business travel market. It can fly at 41,000 feet and carries up to four passengers (facing each other) at a cruising speed of 425 mph, with a range of around 1,200 nautical miles. It has 2 Pratt & Whitney jet engines and retailed at $2.15 million.
Production of the Eclipse 500 was halted in 2008 when Eclipse Aviation went through bankruptcy proceedings. A new company, Eclipse Aerospace was formed and plans to develop the Eclipse 550, a newer version of the 500. Deliveries are forecast to begin in 2013 with a price of $2.7m.
Cessna Citation Mustang
4+2 seats, 41,000 feet altitude ceiling, range of 1,170 nautical miles, cruising speed 400 mph. Purchase price is around $3.2 million. Cessna is a very well established aircraft manufacturer with production at Kansas, USA. Over 400 Mustangs have been delivered.
Embraer Phenom 100
Brazil's VLJ offering has a range of 1,185 nautical miles, 5-7 seats, 41,000 feet altitude ceiling, power from 2 Pratt & Whitney engines, cruising speed 450mph, costs $3.6 million. Largest cabin in the class designed by BMW with the option of chemical lavatory or 2 extra seats. There is also a larger Phenom 300 (light jet) in the range and to date Embraer has delivered over 300 Phenoms.
Honda HA-420 HondaJet
Japanese motor manufacturer Honda has its own light jet in late-stage development, with certification and first deliveries due in 2012. It will carry up to 5 passengers, range will be 1,400 nautical miles with a max cruise speed of 480 mph. Expected to have class leading fuel efficiency. Cost will be around the $4.5 million mark.
Austria's Diamond Aircraft is developing the D-Jet, to be manufactured at its plant in Ontario, Canada. The single-engined aircraft can carry up to 4 passengers (+1 pilot), range 1,350 nautical miles. Price estimated at around $2-2.5 million.
Very Light Jets were initially envisioned to become an air taxi service bringing cheap point-to-point flying to the masses. However, due to the recent and ongoing financial crisis they have not sold anywhere near the numbers initially projected.
That said, VLJs do offer the possibility of affordable jet charter on shorter range flights. There are a number of VLJ operators in UK such as Blink and LEA.
Note that VLJ cabins are quite compact so are only able to take limited luggage.