Air taxis offered to free millions of everyday professionals, executives and entrepreneurs from the grind of traffic jams and airline misery and sell them that most precious commodity: time. Today - in the throes of the deepest economic downturn in modern times - that promise looks like a broken dream.

Dutch operator Bikkair is the latest in a growing list of failed air taxi start-ups, headed by Florida's DayJet. The National Business Aviation Association's first light business aircraft convention - set for San Diego next month - has been strangled at birth. Eclipse Aviation, pioneer of the very light jet at the vanguard of the air taxi revolution, has collapsed. Other manufacturers are shedding staff.

The obvious constituencies for air taxis - small-business owners and companies keen to drive efficiency from their city-hopping worker bees - have been the worst hit by the financial crisis. No wonder times are tough at the smaller end of the charter market.

 Air taxis

Yet, as our flight test of the Embraer Phenom 100 this week proves, VLJs still represent a huge leap forward in technology, massively expanding the market for business aviation by lowering the entry price point.

When the global economy recovers - as it surely will - the competitive advantages offered by air taxi services using these new entry level jets will become apparent. Don't write the revolution off yet.

Source: Flight International