I can't help thinking how much effort and funds were lost to date among various aircraft GA manufacturers on persuing this vision of VLJ. Even those projects that are still going full ahead are still years away from certification and delivery to a customer. And most of these companies were never perfectly financially healthy to begin with yet instead of straightening their existing product base they threw the money into this rathole called VLJ. I really think that management responsible for those decisions should be held accountable. I take a very dim vew of this whole VLJ mania - in my opinion it has potential of destabilizing GA industry.
All of this wasted time and failed effort on VLJ's (not just by Piper) with little to no effort in producing a relatively affordable GA aircraft for the next generation of General Aviation pilots. Sad...
Interesting on two counts:
1) The whole concept of the single-turbofan jet seems to be taking a big hit. Yes, the idea of operating on one turbofan engine has appeal to a limited market, but it seems the single-engine turboprops fill that niche, and the pure-jet crowd wants two engines. Cirrus, Diamond and Piper are the latest generation to pursue this dream, but none is fairing well.
2) I live in Wichita, KS, "The Air Capital," and as recently as last week Piper has been advertising heavily for engineers to pack up and move to Florida. I know several in the industry who have made the move. There are literally billboards around town featuring a picture of the Piper jet, attempting to entice engineers and flight test pilots away from the Kansas-based companies (which are facing their own issues).
These VLJs were conceived before the crash of 2008. After the stimulus $$$ ran out the real moribund state of the US economy has become clear to New Piper and Diamond and the rest of us. I think the aircraft companies were banking on the economy to have rebounded to at least 2-2.5% growth by now. That hasn't happened, at least in part because the banks got stuck with all that useless paper (aka credit default swaps) and so have been hoarding money since early 2009, effectively prolonging the recession. I mean, why the h#%l else would all those kids be protesting all around North America.
The aircraft companies poured tens of millions of $$$ into each of these VLJ programs and are now faced with incomplete projects that will require tens of millions of extra $$$ to get each of them to certification, much less to a production certification. All this before any of these single-engine VLJs return a buck to their respective companies. At least to some degree we can also thank the FAA for doing their part by making these projects as expensive as possible, through endless red tape, regulations, standards and recommended practices.
Like other respondents above, I question the sensibility of throwing huge $$$ into something without a certain future, while seemingly abandoning proven designs they already have production certification approval from the regulator.
One reason why there is a brisk used market is that prospective buyers can see the value of buying a good used plane, even if it is 10-20 years old or more. What flight schools across North America need is to go forward by looking backward: a new generation of existing 100-200 HP aircraft without heavy leather interiors, reasonably priced technology and sensible handling qualities for the common man or woman.
Why an industry would render their proven products semi-useless because you can only fly for 90-120 minutes with the seats full is a mystery to me.
Somewhere north of Bonnier
Based on the recent actions from Piper ownership, and the current state of our economy, I predict Piper is in for some very tough times, including the possibility of a complete shutdown.
They do not seem to have a direction or even a current line of planes that are desirable and enough different from the competition to justify their existence.
The VLJ movement brought some dynamism into a very conservative and low volume business. Before Diamond and Cirrus, most GA airplane designs were 20 to 50 year old.
Also, there is no denying that there is more margins in selling jet airplanes than 4-seat piston ones. So all these companies are looking at improving their sales & move beyond their current buyer group.
At this point, I believe that only Diamond and Honda will actually produce these jets. They have the pre-orders, the money & the will to get the job done. Diamond only ran into problems because they relied too much on the Canadian government. As for Honda, they have been working on this one way or another for over 15 years. Taking 2 more years is no big deal.
While we can all agree that there's a need for less expensive airplanes, they simply cannot generate the amount of potential profits that jets can. For affordable piston airplanes, we'll have to go to east European manufacturers.
Jets don't always make sense but without them, some companies could be left behind.
Most auto-makers now have profit margins of around three percent, relying on volume of sales to bump up the cash figure.
Aircraft, apart from some one or two person businesses, cannot be built on such margins because the volume of sales is not there.
So, aim for a six percent margin.
Six percent of a $100,000 airplane (piston) is $6,000.
Six percent of a $2 million airplane is $120,000.
Having one engine and so only having to pay the engine company once helps reach this margin.
So as difficult as it is, the temptation to build a single engine, $2 million jet will always be there.
And, as new car salesmen know, there is always something about buying new which over-rides the logic of buying second hand.
I agree with most if not all of these comments portraying the VLJ initiatives as a losing proposition and I would like to add my 2 cents. Paying $ 3 mil for an Altaire with no potty -just like the Eclipse- but having only one engine makes it an even a worse proposition due to safety considerations; jet engines are very reliable but they conk out now and then too. None of these royal barges -not because of cost size but cost- are going to succeed and due to the present state of the U.S. economy and second-hand Beech King Airs will be more and more sought after.