With more than 600 orders on the books, demand appears to be strong for the "personal jet", a new breed of single-engine light jet poised to capture upwardly mobile single-engine piston pilots as well pressurised-twin owners in search of simplicity.

Duluth, Minnesota-based Cirrus Design reports $15 million in "place-keeper" deposits for its personal jet, introduced at the National Business Aviation Association show in October. More than 150 customers have each laid down $100,000 despite the fact that Cirrus has not yet revealed the specifications, timing, price or even a picture of "the-jet".

Diamond is taking D-Jet orders from flight schools as well as owner/pilots

What little Cirrus is revealing must be resonating with potential buyers. "The-jet is specifically designed for the owner/operators and people moving up from single-engine pistons," says chairman and chief executive Alan Klapmeier. He says that 60% of orders are from the ranks of the 3,300 Cirrus SR20 and SR22 owners.

Interest in the all-composite Williams International FJ33-powered personal jet is also strong from owners of pressurised piston-powered twins, a sector Klapmeier says is "fairly demanding" to fly. "This aircraft will have better performance at a lower workload," he says. Cirrus has said the pressurised, retractable-gear jet will cruise at 25,000ft (7,600m), fly faster than 300kt (555km/h) and have an airframe parachute.

Klapmeier plans to unveil the aircraft, which he says will be priced "in the million dollar range as opposed to the $2 million range", at a Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association meeting in Minnesota on 28 June. He is aware some deposits may have to be returned, saying: "We think there's a possibility that when we show the aircraft, some may not want it."

Diamond Aircraft, meanwhile, has secured "well over" 300 firm orders for the D-Jet, its 315kt, $1.38 million entrant into the personal jet market. Deposits come in two varieties: $100,000 for those wanting one of the first 300 delivery slots and $30,000 otherwise. Most orders are for "private owners", says company president Peter Maurer, although several fleet customers have come forward. Airline training company ATP in September ordered 20 D-Jets, and Maurer says there will soon be an announcement of a fleet order "out of Asia".

First flight of the Williams FJ33-powered five-seat jet took place in April 2006, and the two halves of the second aircraft, this one built on production tooling, have been joined at the company's London, Ontario facility.

Diamond continues testing on the first all-composite D-Jet, most recently with the installation of V-strakes for deep stall recovery, an addition Maurer says was "intended from the beginning." He expects Canadian certification in mid-2008, with "near concurrent" US validation and European approval to follow.

The third major contender in the personal jet market, Piper Aircraft, now has 180 orders for its $2.2 million Williams FJ44-powered Piper Jet. Piper is banking on owner/operators for its primary customer base, but is not ruling out other sectors. "We feel the air taxi market is to be determined," it says. "We were conservative. We wanted to make the business case based on hard data we could believe in."

Piper is building its first prototype of the all-aluminium aircraft and plans to use high-strength heat-cured adhesives for bonding, creating an "almost rivetless" skin.

First flight of the four/five-passenger, 360kt jet should take place by mid-2008, leading to certification and deliveries in 2010.

Flight's EBACE page....

Business aviation page....

Business aviation pocket guide...

Related articles

Low risk thinking - Business aircraft production update
Things are looking up for singles
High aspirations for business jets
Manufacturers get personal
Schuster leads rebirth
Newcomers prepare to land

Europe's Promise - VLJs
Winning formula - EBACE preview
Fast and Easy - Dassault's 7X
Born again - Piaggio P180 Avanti with cutaway 

Source: Flight International