Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NBAA Follow-Up

It's been an interesting year for many of aircraft owners across the globe. We've seen exciting moments and very frustrating moments, but in the end, it's all about "is my jet helping my productivity, increasing my family time or boosting my business?" If so, fantastic. After all, let's be realistic, we are in the business of owning airplanes because we love to fly or feel we can benefit from them in many aspects of our life - professional and personal.

At NBAA this year, there were a slew of VLJs/Light Jets/Personal Jets that showed up both in the convention center and out at static, many for the very first time. It's still exciting to witness these aircraft go from a paper design to nearly conforming experimental models. Most notably, I was incredibly impressed with Embraer's lineup of the Phenom 100 and 300 at static, and the distinct appearance differences between the two. The $6.65 million (June 05) Phenom 300 is a very sexy piece of work and will have great ramp appeal, while the $2.98 million (June 05') Phenom 100 looked rather "stubby" with it's shorter wings and lack of winglets. Both aircraft will have success in the marketplace and will give some competition to the Cessna Mustang priced at $2.395 million in June 2002 dollars. In addition to the Phenom 100 and 300, the Legacy 600 was there, which is the business jet deriviative of the popular Embraer 135 used throughout the regional airline industry. Embraer also had two full scale mockups (props to Clint Clouatre) presented at the show to showcase the Phenom 300, Legacy 450 medium sized jet, and Lineage 1000 (ERJ190 business jet). Again, props to Embraer for a very classy presentation.

The PiperJet was on display at the convention center. In addition to the mockup, the actual flying prototype was on the carpet and looked a bit rough around the edges, however it's a prototype and not a demo/show aircraft. Congrats to Piper for launching the jet and getting the project to the flying stage. I believe Piper faces some challenges ahead with bringing the project to fruition both from a technical and financial standpoint.

Both Cessna and Eclipse had their VLJ's (entry-level jet) on display, but no significant changes to the product. Cessna was very adamant about piping up it's Citation Columbus, which is a much larger jet that will give Gulfstream, Falcon, and Bombardier some competition. Based on the product history of many of Cessna's jets, the Mustang is due for some form of upgrade in the near future, whether it's performance, avionics, or refined interior, there will inevitably be a "+" model, but if you're thinking about a purchase, I wouldn't wait.

I anticipate more news coming out of Eclipse in the coming months (possibly 30 days) that will bring more confidence to buyers and sellers (and believers) of the product. We shall see and hope. From a technical and production perspective, most of the hurdles have been overcome and the reorganization will change much of that, however financial issues have prevented them from pressing on. Supplier reliability continues to remain a problem for some owners, and some haven't complained much.

With many of these new VLJ models coming from wide variety of manufacturers, there are many choices for the buyer and sometimes the choice is difficult. What I recommend to our clients is to look beyond performance since most are similar, and more importantly look at future support and reliability of the product and choose one other preferred attribute, that should be the aircraft you choose.

Of course HondaJet, Diamond D-Jet, and a few others were present at the show putting on a good performance. Certification is still planned for 2009 and 2010 for many of these products.

Until next time, fly safe.

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