Yesterday Jet-Alliance reported that it had received delivery of the the first Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ). The company is offering fractional ownership for about $100,000 for a 1/16th share (50 hours of flying) and has orders for several more of the planes to build up it's fleet.

The Eclipse 500 can carry four passengers with a range of about 1,000 miles traveling at about 400mph. As well as the low acquisition cost in the Jet-Alliance program the monthly fee of $2,000 and occupied hourly fee of $788 are also significantly lower than comparable light jets. One of the few downsides to all these new microjets is the small cabins. For instance the Eclipse has a max. cabin height of only 4ft 2 in (127cm), and they have very limited lavatory facilities, but for the short flights that they'll perform this shouldn't be a major issue.

Several other VLJs are in various stages of manufacture and certification including the Cessna Mustang, Adam Aircraft Industries A700, Embraer Phenom, Diamond D-Jet and Honda Jet. With pricing varying between $1.5m and $3.0m.

By using new smaller jet engines, new avionics and advanced manufacturing methods, the new VLJ's significantly reduce the cost of both full and fractional jet ownership. They are also expected to support the growth of a whole new area of air-taxis.

Forecasts vary enormously on the number of VLJ's that will be in the skies in 10 years time, but overall the low price is expected to drive large numbers of sales, Eclipse alone has orders for 2,500 aircraft.

We'll be watching the space as the other new planes receive certification and join fractional and charter fleets.

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