The US Federal Aviation Administration is projecting a three times increase in the size of today's turbine-powered fixed-wing business jet fleet in the USA by 2025, offsetting continued sluggish sales in the piston-powered segment and accounting for most of the forecast 3% increase in general aviation hours-flow over the 17-year period.

Active business jets, those that by definition fly more than one hour per year, are expected to number 29,515 by 2025, up from an estimated 10,997 aircraft this year, representing an average annual growth rate of 5.6%.

That's down slightly from the 7% average growth rate since 2000. In addition to an expected influx of very light jets, the FAA attributes the bullish performance in part to "corporate safety/security concerns for corporate staff, combined with increasing flight delays at some US airports".

Though actual VLJ deliveries last year were less than one half what the FAA had predicted (143 versus 350), the agency continues to expect the yearly output to stabilise at a rate of 400-500 new aircraft in the USA a year through 2025, totalling 8,145 aircraft.

Those VLJs, at least in the near term, will be built by the likes of Cessna Aircraft, Eclipse Aviation and Embraer. Cessna plans to build 150 Mustang VLJs a year by 2009 and Eclipse has a goal of building two or more Eclipse 500s a day by that time, up from almost one a day now.

Embraer plans to certify and begin delivering its Phenom 100 by summer, ramping up to deliver approximately 200 aircraft a year by 2010.

Hours flown by business jets are expected to increase by 7.7% annually over the forecast period, more than four percentage points higher than the overall GA rate, which includes piston-powered fixed and rotary wing aircraft, turboprops, turbine-powered helicopters and business jets.

The FAA sees the large increase as "mainly from" the introduction of VLJs and growing use of fractional aircraft, which the FAA says average 1,200h a year compared to roughly 350h for the typical business jet.

The agency expects VLJ air taxis to average 1,500h a year while traditional turbojets will accumulate about 397h a year by 2025, and says VLJs will have "a greater share of their use in on-demand air taxis than the traditional turbojet."

The FAA expects an annual utilisation rate of all VLJs at 1,014h per year.