facebook twitter pinterest instagram You Tube

Light Fantastic: Flagging Down a Flier

Mary Lou Pickel

Vern Raburn’s expectations are nothing if not dramatic. Raburn, CEO of Eclipse Aviation, believes that the Eclipse 500 will create a completely new method of transportation. If his vision comes true, taking a flight in the Eclipse 500 will be as straightforward and inexpensive as hailing a cab for a ride downtown, albeit without a ratty backseat and a reckless driver.

Raburn projects that the operating costs of the Eclipse 500 (and those of competing jets) will be so low—approximately one-quarter the costs of a Cessna Citation CJ1, he says—that companies will place bulk orders for the jets and create an air taxi market. Travelers flying to a common destination would share a plane one way, then, depending on their respective schedules, catch other planes for their return legs. Such a system, says Raburn, would be a less expensive alternative to traditional charter travel because charter customers must often pay for deadhead flights. A network of light jets would utilize the thousands of small airports scattered across the country, and flying directly to such destinations would enable passengers to bypass the time-stealing hub-and-spoke system of commercial airlines. “What air taxis are about is bringing the speed, comfort, safety, and cost of a commercial jet to smaller communities,” says Raburn.

David Wyndham, a partner at the aviation consulting firm of Conklin & de Decker, applauds the idea but gives the system a one-in-four chance of taking off. “These are brand-new aircraft designs,” Wyndham says. “They’d have to work hard to create a new market.” Wyndham estimates that if the Eclipse 500 retains its $950,000 price, the company would have to sell at least 1,000 planes to meet its business model. “In the business jet market, that’s a huge number,” he says.

Raburn has grown accustomed to hearing such skepticism. He insists that air taxis will become a reality because the Eclipse 500’s low operating cost could result in each passenger paying $1.50 per mile. Conversely, Raburn estimates that the average charter flight costs each passenger from $3 to $10 per mile. According to Raburn’s figures, a 200-mile flight in a four-passenger Eclipse 500 air taxi would cost $75 per person. “This is the classic example,” says Raburn, “where new technology is enabling a new product, which is in turn enabling a new market."

See feature article, "Private Travel: Light Fantastic."

Read Next Article >>
Photo by Joerg Mitter
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship comes to the Las Vegas Motor...
Photo by Dan Moore & Junebug Clark
The Cessna Citation CJ3+ is latest jet upgrade from the Wichita, Kan.,...
Thierry Pouille, founder and president of Air Journey , recently returned...
The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer has upgraded its popular entry...
With a dramatic flair true to the company’s style, Icon Aircraft unveiled...
Photo by David J Spurdens
The distinctive Italian-built Piaggio Avanti II twin turboprop is now...
Photo by Paul Bowen Photography Inc
In June, the Cessna Aircraft Company delivered its first new Citation X+...
Amphibious seaplanes have long been popular for sport flying, offering...
In late June, Bombardier Aerospace delivered its first Challenger 350...
The first production version of the highly anticipated HondaJet flew for...