There Are Glimmers Of Hope In This Air Taxi Thing
It would be too easy to take shots based on the events that led up to Tuesday's announcement that DayJet was scaling back rather than turning into the aviation supernova that some had predicted. It's probably worth noting that I can't ever remember DayJet saying they were going to set the aviation world on its ear. All I remember is them saying they thought this air taxi thing with a cheap little jet might work. And it still might.
If you've been following the whole Eclipse blog court thing, you may have reached some conclusions that I might agree with about how it all came about. Now the word is out about DayJet's decision to take a deep breath, try to stay in business and maybe eventually make a little money by offering business people, government officials and the somewhat well-heeled a chance to get from place to place, quickly and relatively affordably (and it is relative) without ever taking their shoes off.
The fact is that few things in life turn out exactly as you plan and if your margins for error are too slim then the wheels will come off the cart.
Based on my conversation with DayJet founder Ed Iacobucci on Tuesday, if anyone has a chance to make this work it's DayJet. And, rather than focus on the kind of ridiculous behavior that has swirled around this in recent weeks, the aviation community should set aside the barbs, give this concept some breathing space and reserve the "I told you so's" for those who deserve them, when they deserve them.
I've talked to dozens, if not hundreds of people in Iacobucci's position. Being the bearer of bad news is never easy but it's better when you think the story isn't finished. That's what Iacobucci believes and if we give him half a chance, he may prove himself right.
Out of my interview I gleaned some nuggets of hope:
- First, the airplane is basically OK. Regardless of your opinion of the company, the product, though unfinished, seems to be able to handle the task DayJet put it to. Granted, it's only been six months and the plane has some add-ons to make it serviceable but it starts, runs, flies and does it all over again with reasonable reliability. It'll be even better when it's done, according to Iacobucci.
- People seem to like it. Iacobucci said clients were surprised at how comfortable it is and delighted with how quiet it is. On the short hops it will be doing, you can put up with almost anything but it's nice to be comfortable when you're paying $1,400 for a flight that takes little more than an hour (even though it might be saving you a full day).
- There is a business there. Iacobucci signed up 1,500 members, more than 500 actually flew and 50 flew more than 10 times. Whether it can survive fuel prices, the vagaries of the economy and the inevitable attack from the airlines if it gets too successful are questions that will be answered as the company progresses.
And I hope it does keep going because general aviation needs the kind of bold thinking that's behind this. Why? Because we're losing our luster. Pilot training is suffering, boomer pilots are dropping out and there's little to prime the pump to incite the excitement that has always sustained aviation.
Rather than smugly dismissing the idea as a failure, we should all be hoping that Ed and his crew find a way to make it work.