Personal Light Jets (PLJ’s) are considered to be a segment of the Very Light Jet (VLJ) market, created in the mid-2000’s. The concept behind the VLJ market was to produce an affordable way for private individuals to own and fly their own jet. The VLJ market underwent a large amount of growth from 2005 to 2008. The main contributing factors were:
• The creation of small, light-weight and efficient jet engines
• A booming economy
• Large declines in the services offered by commercial airlines
• Congestion and delays at airports due to increased security requirements after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001
Initially the term VLJ was used to represent all jet powered aircraft that had a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of less than 4,540kgs (10,000lbs) that were designed to carry between four and eight people (including the pilot). However, as the industry grew a natural segregation in the market emerged. The distinction is typically made by considering MTOW, cost and the number of engines, with PLJ’s generally being considered as those that weigh in around 6,000lbs, cost less than $2m and have a single engine.
Manufacturers and Aircraft
Although several companies have produced conceptual designs for PLJ’s e.g. SmartJet & others, there are currently only 2 manufacturers who are in the stages of building and/or flight testing PLJ’s. As of mid-2011 there are no manufacturers producing PLJs on a factory assembly line.
The PLJ market is specifically aimed at filling the niche between lower-end Business Jets and higher-end Turbo-Prop aircraft. PLJ’s are aimed predominately at personal owners, although other end users can include air taxi operators, small businesses and military trainers. To meet this market segment they are designed for single-pilot operations.
Most manufacturers have had difficulties in getting their PLJ’s into full production. These difficulties have extended into the VLJ segment as well, with Eclipse Aviation delivering only 300 certified aircraft to customers before declaring bankruptcy in 2007. Diamond and Cirrus and have produced prototypes and are undergoing flight testing of their jets, but have been impacted with the downturn in the industry as a result of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. Nonetheless, there are still other manufacturers, such as Stratos Aircraft, indicating their intentions to enter the market and deliver fully-certified PLJs.