Taking The VLJ Overseas

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With flocks of very light jets readying to arrive in the U.S. market (Spectrum, the VLJ performance leader hopeful, is expected to announce its European strategy in Geneva early next month) Europe is taking notice and wondering if the concept will work for them. "Within Europe's business aircraft operating community," says Kate Sarsfield, writing for Flight International, "the VLJ is being greeted with a mixture of excitement, curiosity, apprehension and skepticism." The Eclipse 500 and Cessna Mustang are expected to earn European certification by late next year, though deliveries may not start until 2008. Critics say the VLJs will likely replace piston twins used for charter, but the cabins are too small to compete with the amenities of larger corporate bizjets now in service. Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn told Flight International he doesn't expect to compete straight-on with the bigger jets, but instead expects to find "a vast untapped market" of business travelers. But aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia is unconvinced that small jets will flood European skies. "VLJs might help a few new charter operators to make cash, but we're talking a few score aircraft, not thousands," he told Flight International.