The Impact of Very Light Jets on Small Airports

Very Light Jets are the way of the future. These small 4-6 passenger jet aircraft will improve on everyday personal and business travel. If you have not already heard of these amazing aircraft you soon will. The jets are said to weigh approximately as

much as a minivan at maximum weight of only ten thousand pounds they will be the Sport Utility Vehicles of our skies. By the year 2016 the Federal Aviation Administration is predicting that four thousand five hundred Very Light Jets will be in operation. The new airplanes will be flying to and from non-congested, underused airports; while this is great in the way of congestion and gridlock at the major hub airports it means that these less used airports are going to have to undergo major changes in order to ready themselves for the up coming aircraft.

Aviation has always had stability issues, but typically there has been growth throughout its history. Traveling by air will always be the most time efficient form of travel. With this said there is still a need for improvement. Although flying reduces actual in route time, the time it takes to get to the airport and jump the hurdles of the big airport environment has increased significantly since September 11. There are people that travel frequently and require a form of expedited travel. Business jets or corporate flights are options but can be costly which makes it out of reach for the average person. Very Light Jets (VLJs) will bridge the gap between commercial air carrier service and corporate flight by being cost effective and time efficient.
The economic growth that VLJs are expected to bring is already showing the world its possibilities. In June of 2006, DayJet announced that they have chose to open a point-to-point, on demand jet service in Tallahassee, Florida in addition to Boca Raton, Gainesville, Lakeland, and Pensacola. “Tallahassee is projected to receive a total annual economic impact in excess of $16 million from the arrival of DayJet within its first three years of operation.” (Close D. & DeMichele B., 2006). Within the communities served by DayJet there will be locations for new and expanding businesses due to the improved workforce mobility, market convenience and productivity of employment. In addition to DayJet’s direct economic contributions through petroleum, rent and employment, travelers using the per-seat, on-demand services, also referred to as Air Taxis will cause increased utilization of airport-related services, including rental lots and taxi services. With the arrival of DayJet, the state of Florida expects two thousand employment opportunities for high skilled, high waged employees.
Operators of air taxis will be centering their maintenance amenities and aircrafts within a number of communities that they will be serving. The personnel connected with these operations will live within the communities. This will add jobs to the local economy, including customer service and ground personnel, pilots, and maintenance workers. According to calculations by Virginia Polytechnic Institute, who separates VLJ service into three categories; per seat on-demand, service and maintenance facilities (type one); per seat on-demand, service only (type two) and destination or aircraft charter service only (type three). By 2017 there will be a need for one hundred eighteen pilots, twenty maintenance workers and six ground staff for type one, and additional forty seven pilots and six ground members will be need from type two service and none needed within the type three service. “Direct impacts on the local economies would also include the salaries and benefits associated with these jobs as well as other spending by air taxi operators on aircraft maintenance, fuel, and aircraft landing and overnight parking fees.” (Eclipse Aviation, 2006). It is indicated that spending will total over $5.8 million annually by 2017 within a type two community and close to $16 million within type one communities. “Benefits to communities with no based aircraft (Type 3) would be small, by contrast, due to the fact that spending directly related to VLJ operations would be limited to landing and overnight fees. Even fuel purchases at these airports would be limited as refueling would most likely occur at the airports where the aircraft are based.” (Eclipse Aviation, 2006). Along with job positions made available for pilots, maintenance workers and ground staff. The new VLJ operators will have positions open for airport mangers, janitorial services and light catering or vending services.
We will also see an indirect impact on the local communities, passengers who travel within the VLJ communities will spend their money on a number of other services as well. VLJ customers will need to arrange for means of transportation in the way of taxis, rental cars or limousine rentals. “Those staying for more than a single day will also purchase hotel accommodations, although it may be that some travelers will take advantage of the flexible travel schedule allowed by VLJs to make their return trip sooner, where the longer travel times of automobiles or the less flexible schedule of regular air carriers would have resulted in them staying in the community for an additional night.” (Eclipse Aviation, 2006). Passengers will also obtain food and beverages and are sure to visit local shopping centers and small retail stores. Not only will travelers using VLJs spend within these community bases, but the employees of the VLJ operators will also spend a good portion of their wages locally within the area they work and live. This cycle will continue by local businesses spending a portion of the income made within the local community, leading to more job openings with in other companies due to increased sales.

(Eclipse Aviation, 2006).
Not only will there be a large impact on small local areas but on the nation’s economy’s well. A large number of qualified personnel will be necessary in order to produce the aircraft and the operations of these services.
VLJs will be operating out of airports that could not be of service to most other passenger aircraft. In March of 2006 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) screened candidates in the following areas, public use, location, runway length of at least three thousand five hundred feet, paved runway, width of at least seventy-five feet and runway edge lights. Only two thousand and seventy four airports out of more then nineteen thousand (most are private) met these standards. Modernizing airport communications is essential. “The FAA has begun replacing its old radar-based ground stations with newer equipment that uses global positioning satellites. With a more accurate picture of air traffic, controllers will be able to land more planes per hour by squeezing them together.” (Business Weekly, 2006). At a cost of near $600 million, the first stage of renovation will be complete in the year 2010. Carriers are trying to influence Congress on the way air traffic control systems are funded and to charge private aircraft more than they are paying now in order to help pay for the over all renovation.
Most of the VLJs will have superior avionics as optional or standard equipment. “As to equipage, most VLJs will include advanced integrated avionics as standard or optional equipment. For example, the Eclipse will be equipped to support:
1. Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) for precision surveillance monitoring
2. Dual GPS with wide area augmentation system (WAAS) for precision navigation
3. Auto-throttles, advanced cockpit automation system color weather radar
4. Dual flight management systems (FMS) for trajectory-based operations in today’s environment and in the new generation army target system (NGATS) of tomorrow
5. Data link communications capability to connect to tomorrow’s network centric asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) architecture. The VLJ will perceive itself to be better prepared then most of today’s commercial aircrafts.
In short, the typical VLJ will distinguish itself as better equipped than many of the aircraft in today’s commercial fleets.” (Robinson & Planzer, 2006).

“Many VLJ pilots are expected to be aviators who are stepping up from turboprops and single-engine piston-powered aircraft and may be interested in operating the new light twinjets as single pilots in the high-altitude, high-speed environment.” (NBAA, 2004). Because of this reason, pilots will need to undergo more in-depth training. Before undergoing in a very light jet education classes, an initial evaluation to determine ability in a number of areas must be given. These include flight skills assessment, practical in-flight exam to test instrument skills and airman ship, oral exam to evaluate judgment skills, written exam to determine aeronautical knowledge. A significant part for the safe operation of the VLJ will be in the understanding gained from post rating training. The post rating training should include, winter operations, summer operations, Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM) applications, establishing personal operating minimums and fatigue. “The manufacturer’s training can be described as the “nuts and bolts” portion of the training. It is technical in nature and designed to instruct the student on the specific aircraft.” (NBAA, 2005). The class is to contain maneuvers, pre-training study package review and testing, aircraft systems, aircraft servicing, auto flight skills, avionics and navigation, emergency and abnormal procedures, limitations and specifications, oxygen, placards and maintenance requirements, fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid, tires, potable water and lavatory. There will also be a need for an annual recurrent training in addition to the initial training needed.
There has been great concern that traffic in the skis will become very congested once VLJs are in operation. These concerns come from both the growing number of jets and the slower mach .64 speeds at with they fly. Thankfully, this presumption is not the case. While from time to time, VLJ will need to fly at a higher altitude current FMS have technology already established to allow faster moving aircrafts to move around slower moving ones. “In fact, even if a VLJ operator decides to operate into a hub airport, that operation will not cause congestion. “The effect of VLJ operations into hub airports will be minimal for a number of reasons: VLJ pilots will need adequate prior experience and will receive rigorous training, equivalent in many cases to that for commercial pilots; VLJ aircraft will have advanced integrated avionics to provide enhanced pilot situational awareness, enable seamless traffic flow integration and optimal spacing with commercial traffic flows; VLJs are capable of operating at speeds compatible to those of commercial jet aircraft, throughout the terminal area and until well inside the final approach fix; VLJ climb and descent rates are compatible with commercial turbojet aircraft; VLJ aircraft can land and depart safely using shorter runways, unusable by commercial jet traffic.” (Raburn, 2006). Because VLJ are traveling shorter routes, under six hundred statutes they will travel at a lower altitude for the most part. They will also be flying to and from smaller underused airports cutting congestion. The VLJ will use their aircrafts to go to places commercial flights do not, thus avoiding the congestion associated with the larger hubs. “The reality is that there is significant available airspace to accommodate these new aircraft.” (Raburn, 2006). You have to remember that airspace is not a two lane high way it is three-dimensional. VLJ are able of getting out of the way of larger or faster flying aircrafts, moving around airspace is something aircrafts do day in and day out.
As you can see there are many opportunities for local communities to grow economically, which are needed in this current economy. There are no real concrete plans that were found to welcome this form of travel to this region, but one can expect big developments. Air travel is big right now and people will definitely embrace a more convenient way to fly.

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