Business Jets - The New Air Taxis

You may not find a business jet in your driveway in the next few years, but how far away is the nearest small airport?

 If you're like many around the country, the answer is: fewer than 20 miles. There are over 5,000 small airports in the U.S. that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regards as 'underused'. That means they are used at less than normal capacity for an airport that size.

The latest small private or business jets, VLJs (Very Light Jets), can land on runways as short as 3,000 feet (914 m). By contrast, mid-sized business jets like the Gulfstream G150 require almost 5,000 feet (1524 m) to land. They do have nice long ranges, though: more than 3,000 nautical miles. They can fly from LA to NY in a single hop.

Eclipse Aviation, with their Eclipse E500 can definitely take advantage of that. Using smaller airports means quicker take off and landing, and flights nearer to home for millions. Instead of fighting traffic, security and all the other commercial air travel hassles travelers can simply take a short drive or taxi ride to a local 'air taxi'.

Fractional ownership arrangements, in which multiple individuals or companies own a part of the aircraft, make having one at your disposal on short notice feasible. At $1 million to $3 million, or even $10 million for the larger private jets, spreading the fractional ownership over as few as five makes the jet less than the average home in major urban areas.

These newer jets have the latest avionics, too. That means they can take off, fly and land in weather conditions that would have grounded their older cousins. The safety record of these small jets is the equal of any commercial airline in the world.

With taller passenger cabins than turbo-prop planes, they can comfortably accommodate all. The new Gulfstream G150 even has a wide-body that rivals larger jets.

With more efficient engines, now rarely more than two on a plane (with some single engine designs in development), fuel costs are less of a factor. Cost-per-mile figures as low as 60 cents per mile have been reached, even in the face of rising fuel prices.

Private jets and business jets have no mandated seating arrangements. Just as you would when entering a conference room, you pick out the seat that suits you. And, except for fairly loose FAA safety regulations, you don't need the pilot's permission to use the bathroom.

Those that have stewards or stewardesses recognize that the traveler is paying the bills. The treatment is correspondingly what you would have found on a commercial airline flight fifty years ago. Eat what you want, when you want. No edging around food carts or personnel who have just been disappointed by the latest union contract negotiation.

Short commutes, convenient flights, moderate security and feasible cost. Courteous crews and comfortable conditions. What's not to like? Air taxis just might be the best thing to happen to air travel since the Pan Am Clipper in the 1930s.

International Business Jet Guide 2010