So What's All This
by Mary Pat Baxter
Reprinted with permission
from FAA Aviation News
coming'. the Cessna
Mustang, Eclipse 500', Embraer
Phenom, ATG Javelin, and Diamond
D-Jet. Cirrus is
developing a 'personal jet' and Piper has one in the works too.
Take a look at some of the manufacturer's Web sites; these are
some pretty impressive and no doubt fun to fly aircraft.
A VLJ is a
Very Light Jet, generally under 10,000 lbs., with four to six
seats (including pilot seats), speeds of about 300+ knots, capable
of flying at altitudes of up to 41,000 feet.
have a better definition than that?
to define these aircraft specifically and slap a label to that
definition. This segment of aviation is so new and has already
changed so much with ever-smaller entrants in the arena that
any definition would probably quickly become obsolete. In the
past we've categorized aircraft by their size, weight, or number
of seats. It's becoming increasingly clear that perhaps size
doesn't matter and maybe the operating environment would be
a better means for grouping aircraft. It's something we would
consider if we start making rule changes in this area.
is the FAA playing in the development of VLJs?
new aspect of aviation affects many lines of business within
the FAA, such as Certification, Flight Standards, Air Traffic,
and General Counsel. In June of 2005 we established a cross-organizational
group to make sure we define and address all potential issues
and coordinate our efforts where needed. We broke the group
into committees to address specific areas such as pilot training,
inspector training, maintenance, air traffic, etc. The whole
group of about 30 representatives meets about once every six
weeks so we can share what we're doing and coordinate our efforts
where areas overlap. We usually meet by telcon since we're scattered
across the country.
really be operated by a single pilot?
are designing these aircraft to be certificated for single pilot
operation. As of the date this article is being written, no
VLJs have received final certification, but Eclipse and Cessna
expect to achieve it this year. There may be an initial second
in- command requirement, a 'pilot mentor' requirement, or other
requirements mandated by the manufacturer or insurance companies
depending on the pilot's experience level. The FAA will be conducting
the Flight Standardization Board (FSB) for the Eclipse' in mid-June.
This is basically where a group of FAA inspectors, led by a
Chairman from the Aircraft Evaluation Group, goes through the
training for the aircraft, takes type rating tests, and makes
any recommendations as far as training or pilot certification
requirements. So that's the step in the certification process
where pilot requirements are finalized.
FAA going to require specific pilot training?
As noted above,
final requirements for training will be determined during the
FSB. However, here's what we're expecting:
be done under the FAA Industry Training Standards (FITS) concept.
We are working with industry as they develop scenario-based
training programs for acceptance under FITS. Go to
http://faa.gov/education_research/training/fits for more
information on FITS. Manufacturers may also specify in the limitations
section of their airplane flight manual that certain training
be accomplished in order to act as pilot-in-command of the aircraft.
VLJs are turbojet powered aircraft, a type rating is required
and pilots will be tested in accordance with the
Transport Pilot (ATP) and
Type Rating Practical Test
Standards (PTS). The FAA is in the process of beefing up
these PTS to include more aeronautical decision-making (ADM),
single pilot resource management (SRM), and a greater emphasis
on performance analysis and scenario-based testing.
the National Air Space? Are these aircraft going to 'blacken
the sky' and clog up the system?
especially in the near term. First of all, these aircraft are
designed to utilize smaller runways with takeoff and landing
distances in the 2,000-5,000 foot range. It's expected that
they'll be utilizing the regional airports and not adding to
the already congested hub airports. Initially it's expected
that there may be 100 VLJs by 2006, then perhaps about 500/year
within several years of introduction.
range from 5,000 units by 2020 to 15,000 units by 2020, so that's
a pretty hefty increase. Through the Next Generation Air Transportation
System (NGATS), the FAA has already begun to prepare for this
longer-term increase and potential capacity issues not only
from the VLJs, but all aspects of air traffic. You can read
more about NGATS at
about mixing with faster airplanes, both at altitude and in
of these aircraft are certified to operate at 41,000 feet, it
is expected that because of their range (about 1,100 plus nm)
they'll be utilizing the mid-altitudes of about 20,000 to 25,000
feet. Pilot training and testing will emphasize operations in
complex airspace and with much faster aircraft to mitigate any
problems in this area. Through the work of our cross-organizational
group, all aspects of Air Traffic (en route, terminal, systems
operations, tactical operations, training, etc.) are very much
in tune with the capabilities and limitations of the aircraft
and will be very well prepared for their entrance into the system.
VLJs have glass cockpits?
So far, that's
what it looks like. The Eclipse even takes this a step further;
integrating many aircraft systems into the Avio system they
are designing into their aircraft.
the average GA pilot be able to fly a VLJ?
are from about $1.4 million to about $2.7 million, so they're
really not much more expensive, and in some cases less expensive,
than some of the light twins or small turboprops. So'if it's
in your budget and you've got the discipline to successfully
complete the rigorous training program and pass the type rating
check, you too can pilot a VLJ!
Mary Pat Baxter is an Aviation
Safety Inspector in Flight Standards Service's General Aviation
and Commercial Division and the Program Manager for VLJs.