The entry level VLJ (Very Light Jet) market has continued to perform well during the economic downturn, seeing its market share increase – for both business and leisure flights.
And with the Citation M2 recently becoming available on the charter market and the HondaJet in its final stages of certification, the future is looking exciting for small jet customers, with more choice than ever before.
As the VLJ market reaches its seasonal peak in Europe, we took a closer look at three of the existing contenders in this segment. And what better way to get an expert viewpoint that from those that know the aircraft best? Their pilots.
1) THE ORIGINAL AND STILL THE BEST?
The aircraft: The Cessna Citation Mustang. First flown in 2005, it has 4 seats with a maximum cruising speed of 340 kts, and optimal range of 1150 nm.
USPs: Most economical and reliable; wide market availability; shortest take-off and landing distances.
The pilot: CDR Konrad Kazmierczak from GlobeAir
Prior to flying the Citation Mustang, Konrad also flew the Airbus A320 (a converted VIP airliner), so he has flown them all – from big to small. Konrad is also a former Olympic swimming athlete.
View from the flight deck: “Europe is the perfect environment for the Citation Mustang. For small groups, up to 2.5 hours long, you can’t beat this aircraft. With more than 100,000 commercial flights on a Mustang in Europe since its launch, it’s the clear leader in its field. It’s highly reliable, with very advanced technology from Cessna, PWC & Garmin. The cost versus benefit equation of a Mustang is unbeatable – plus it’s fantastic fun to fly.”
My favourite route: “For me it has to be flying from Geneva to Nice. It’s such a perfect route for a VLJ, and one I fly most often. But I never tire of taking off surrounded by mountains, and landing in the scenic coastal backdrop of the Cote D’Azur”. (Nice was voted the Most stunning Airport Approach 2014)
2) READY TO TAKE OFF: PHENOM 100
The aircraft: The Phenom 100. Manufactured by Embraer, the Phenom 100 first took flight in 2007. The aircraft can carry up to 6 passengers with maximum cruising speed of 390 kts, and range of 1196 nm.
USPs: Higher passenger comfort; larger luggage capacity at 62 cubic feet; full lavatory on board.
The pilot: Wael Albayaa, Phenom Fleet Captain and line training Captain at FlairJet.
Wael has also flown the Citation II and Citation V aircraft. He now flies both the Phenom 100 and the Citation Bravo aircraft.
View from the flight deck: “The Phenom 100 is the best VLJ in the market as it has the biggest cabin, the most thrust and the largest hold size. After flying other aircraft, I notice how sharp and responsive it feels to fly the Phenom. It has an impressive ramp presence and is becoming increasingly popular as the VLJ aircraft that delivers on all fronts – comfort, speed and price.“
My favourite route: “I love flying from London to the south of France, the Balearic Islands and Northern Italy – all perfect ranges for the Phenom 100.”
3) WAITING IN THE WINGS: ECLIPSE 550
The aircraft: The Eclipse 550. An evolved version of the Eclipse 500, the aircraft gained FAA certification in 2014 with its first delivery in March 2014. It has 4 seats with a maximum cruising speed of 375 kts and range of 1125 nm.
USPs: The most fuel-efficient twin-engine jet consuming just 59 gallons per hour; lightest VLJ, capable of flying 2 hours even at maximum payload; most robust safety system in its class
The pilot(s): Bruce Dickinson, best known as lead singer of Iron Maiden, is also a highly-experienced pilot, with a type rating on the Eclipse 550. He is non-executive chairman of Aeris Aviation, the European distributor for Eclipse Aerospace.
PrivateFly’s Arthur Montibert is also a pilot, flying the Eclipse. He gives an experienced pilot view as part of the PrivateFly Flight Team.
View from the flight deck: Bruce Dickinson calls the Eclipse 550 the ‘only true VLJ’ in the market. He says “it flies absolutely beautifully – would I put my wife and kids in the back? Unquestionably yes. If it was an Iron Maiden song, the Eclipse 550 would be Ace is High.”
PrivateFly’s Arthur adds “As a pilot the Eclipse is great to handle. It’s the perfect jet for two passengers and has been designed specifically for this purpose. For me, this is the VLJ of the future, and I’m looking forward to this being available for charter in Europe very soon.”
My favourite route: Arthur chooses “Cannes to Sion – because the approach in Sion is amazing at high altitude, seeing Mont Blanc en route and the breathtaking valley below.”
For private jet charter prices on a VLJ or any aircraft, contact us call our 24 hour Flight team on +44 (0) 1747 642 777