Light Jets Going Mainstream

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Will The Big Boys Join In?

The CEO of Eclipse says he wouldn't be surprised to see some heavy hitters in the industry join the fun. Vern Raburn, the affable and voluble head of Eclipse Aviation told AVweb he's heard that Brazil's Embraer, Europe's Airbus and even the grandaddy of them all, Boeing, are poking around with the idea of entering the market. "There's lots of talk," said Raburn. During his presentation Raburn noted that VLJ is now "a very mature segment" of the industry, adding the 500's development schedule is pretty much being met, with the goal to have a test airplane in the air with the new Pratt and Whitney Canada 610 F engines by the end of the year. Although there hasn't been a peep to confirm Raburn's speculation about the looming competition, it would be hard for the large companies to ignore the numbers. Eclipse alone has orders for 2,111 of its jets and, although its chief rivals in the market -- Adam Aircraft, Cessna and Diamond -- are far behind, there are billions of dollars in orders accumulated so far. It's also important to note where a lot of those planes are destined. More than two-thirds of Eclipse's orders are from future air taxi operators who will be competing directly against airlines by providing more convenient service at prices that are said to rival full fare business class seats. It seems likely the airlines, and the companies that now supply them with airplanes, must respond to the attack on their bread and butter.