Agency fears mushrooming demand for personal aircraft could lead to logjams in skies
Eurocontrol has raised the spectre of thousands of very light jets (VLJ) creating logjams in controlled airspace if the concept becomes a commercial success.
Head of Eurocontrol's airspace, flow management and navigation department Alex Hendriks predicts that "there's a large, still unexpected traffic demand that has yet to show itself".
The phenomenon Hendriks is alluding to is similar to the relatively recent explosive growth of the low-cost airline sector in Europe, despite post-9/11 conditions. This was not predicted by air navigation service providers (ANSP), but the contraction of the major airlines' services at that time made it possible for ANSPs to cope.
Hendriks points out that Eclipse Aviation will have the capacity to produce four of its Eclipse 500 VLJs a day by 2007, if the orders are there. If that demand is sustained for a long period then it will put pressures on ANSPs that have not previously been considered in long-term planning.
Meanwhile, the US National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has issued training guidelines for VLJs, which it says outline the minimum requirements needed to satisfy a VLJ transition and recurrent training programme.
The programme was developed by the NBAA's VLJ working group, which embraced members of the manufacturing community, including Adam Aircraft, Cessna and Eclipse, as well as training and insurance providers.
The NBAA says: "With the advent of next-generation VLJs, potential [pilot] candidates will come from varied levels of experience ranging from the relatively inexperienced to the veteran professional aviator." The NBAA says that is imperative that all candidates successfully complete VLJ training and demonstrate a level of proficiency and operational knowledge beyond that required to merely "pass the checkride".
The final product, it says, reflects a compilation of identified areas of greatest risk associated with transitioning into VLJs and how best to mitigate these risks with an appropriate training curriculum.
"Very light jets will prove to be a dynamic force in the aviation community with the potential for thousands being delivered over the next decade," the NBAA says.
"Safety is paramount and all stakeholders agree that training must be thorough and properly conducted to maintain the exemplary safety record of the industry and to ensure the viability of the product," it adds.
DAVID LEARMOUNT / MAASTRICHT & KATE SARSFIELD / LONDON
Source: Flight International