For many, the promise of air taxi service on microjets (a.k.a. VLJs or very light jets) was the ultimate upgrade. Air taxis would offer point-to-point service, circumventing the hassle of major airports and their security apparatuses. Plus, they’d be similar to private jets — albeit typically without onboard restrooms.
But despite the convenience of point-to-point flying, the business model may not take off as planned. The past week was particularly bad for Eclipse Aviation, arguably the leader in the manufacture of microjets.
For starters, a scandal erupted over the FAA’s certification of Eclipse’s jets. There have been numerous safety concerns with the newly-launched jet, such as “avionics software issues; the lack of a drainage system for the pitot-static system, which made it subject to clogging from ice; intermittent false stall warnings; blanking or freezing of the cockpit displays; and flaps sticking in position.” Yikes.
Click here for a thorough discussion of Congressional concerns. It’s quite disconcerting. And no, there’s no discussion of the lack of onboard restrooms, which, to me, is disconcerting as well. The company’s rebuttal is here (pdf).
Then, DayJet, the largest operator of Eclipse jets closed up shop. The company had been actively flying the VLJs since October 2007, but as of September 19, 2008, their website looks like so many other failed airlines’. The typical “We’re sorry…” and blaming a lack of financing for the need shut down.
So, does this mean that VLJ service is dead? Not quite yet, but it’s certainly on the ropes. Safety concerns, insolvent carriers, and (of course) the high price of fuel. As much as commercial air travel sucks these days, the air taxi market has a steep hill to climb right now.
Maybe having restrooms would help?