Monday, October 23, 2006

Watching the Eclipse - The Air Taxi Market

This the fourth in a series of topics that will be revisited now that the Eclipse is certified and deliveries are about to commence.

When the VLJ's were first conceived several years ago and 50 cent per mile operating costs were projected, the air taxi idea caught on and a handful of operators ordered hundreds of airplanes.

With costs now widely understood to be three dollars per mile, the would be taxi companies still cling to the belief they have a viable business model for the Eclipse Air Taxi. Others doubt the vision of hundreds and hundreds of Eclipse aircraft blanketing the country providing low cost transportation.

For both sides of this argument, click on the following link which was provided courtesy of Adam Webster's web site:

Apart from the commercial viability, another wrinkle has surfaced with the publication of the FAA Type Data Sheet. Weight and balance limitations will be a factor in flying John Q Public.

The Eclipse has an extremely narrow range for CG travel that will severely limit the utility for an air taxi operation.

Imagine Happy Jet parked at an FBO waiting for passengers, a Chevy Suburban pulls up and out steps three 220 lb guys, their briefcases and overnight bags. The flight crew will take one look and realize they are outside the forward CG limits!

Far fetched? Maybe, maybe not.

It is more far fetched to envision a Volvo pulling up with three 170 lb guys carrying a shaving kit in one hand and a clean pair of skivvies in their other hand.

Scheduling will have to ask the tough questions when booking charters: "Yes Mr. Fatcat, and how much does Mrs. Fatcat weigh?"


ColdWetMackarelofReality said...

Just found you!!

Great read Stan, thanks for a great resource.

As a follower of the Eclipse program for some time, I must say that I find the issues which are now obvious to experienced operators or aviation professionals to be disappointing and disconcerting.

Each new revelation seems to indicate an airplane of increasingly limited utility and climbing costs.

If the cost per mile which was reported to be in the $.60 per mile range at Oshkosh '03 is truly between $2 to $3 per mile in reality, one has to ask how any of the proposed air taxi operators will have any chance of success.

Cost of operations for the VLJ's in general and the Eclipse in particular have always been touted as chief among the 'enablers' for the 'non 135 charter on demand' air taxi concepts.

Most midsize turboprops and several light jets can be operated in that cost range, and they will carry 4 (or more) passengers, and their bags, in larger cabins, some even with lavs installed. The 90 and 200 series KingAirs, Pilatus PC-12 and TBM 700 come to mind, as does the fantastic Piaggio Avanti P180, even though some have acquisition costs twice that of the Eclipse.

One does wonder why these existing, economical, and proven airframes are not being tested in similar concepts - if the 'non 135 charter on demand' air taxi concept is a truly viable business idea.

These issues also seem to indicate real problems in the leadership of the company - not good for a company that will ultimately succeed or fail based in large part on continuing the media facade and by eventually delivering an airplane that can meet at least some of its' many, many promises.

Keep up the good work!

Stan Blankenship said...


Welcome aboard!

You may win the award for the most imaginative moniker on this blog.

You nicely summarized the views that most of us share.