Light Fantastic: Flagging Down a Flier

<< Back to Robb Report, January 2004

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."

The fractional provider recently took delivery of a custom G450LXi, with more on the way…
The simulated fireplace replicates the heat, sound, and intensity of a real fire…
The amphibious aircraft only requires a sport-pilot license to fly and can be towed behind a car…
The custom copter features a touch panel hub that controls nearly every function in the cabin…
The only business jet produced by the Swiss company, the PC-24 is already sold out through 2019…
Photo by Paul Bowen
The $43.5 million ultrafast business jet is expected to reach customers in 2018…
Photo by Paul Bowen
FREE PREVIEW: The Bombardier Global 5000 is among Robb Report’s 2015 Best of the Best selections...
Photo by John M. Dibbs
Shot down over 70 years ago, the warplane is airworthy again after a three-year restoration…
Photo by Mike Fizer
FREE PREVIEW: The Cessna Citation M2 is among Robb Report’s 2015 Best of the Best selections…
Photo by Jessica Ambats
By combining resources, the company hopes to more easily develop new aircraft…