The largest business aircraft orders by quantity are from air taxi operators, and leaders of this young market are in Atlanta this week looking at the latest options.

Though their business models vary, these businesses have similar criteria for selecting that next aircraft -- affordability, reliability, safety. “Customers are interested in the value proposition you have to offer. They’re not interested in being your guinea pigs to be able to do that,” says Steve Hanvey, chief executive of SATSair.

An aircraft needs to be proven and available, he says, like the fleet of Cirrus SR22s he runs from the south-east to the edge of the Midwest. The Federal Aviation Administration won’t easily add an unknown to an operation certificate and investors won’t readily back it.

“The investment community has taken a long look with a jaundiced eye at all of us because we’re trying something so revolutionary and new.”

Comfort and safety are big, and the ballistic recovery chute puts passengers at east. “We  would not fly a single-pilot, single-engined airplane without a parachute,” Hanvey says, adding: “I would fly a single engine airplane if I was convinced of the reliability of the engine with two pilots.”

The parachute was a big selling point behind Imagine Air’s Cirrus purchases, says marketing and sales director Haroon Qureshi.

That Atlantabased provider also has three Eclipse 500s on order. “What we look at, for the money, are: how many people can we take, what are the operating costs and the third one is customer perception.” Qureshi is checking specs and running numbers. “We are definitely looking around for a large order of planes,” he confirms.

DayJet has just launched its per-seat service in Florida exclusively with Eclipse 500s, but it has expressed interest in the HondaJet and Embraer’s Phenoms.

Linear Air has added its first Eclipse to complement its Cessna Caravans, and chief executive Bill Herp says “an understanding of OEM strategy and support for air taxi is crucial”. Herp confirms he is looking “particularly   at single-engine designs”.

The specifications can rule out an airplane or invite interest, but, as Qureshi says, sales personnel should expect a lot of questions. “You want to look at it, you want to fly it, you want to listen to it, you want to have someone tell you how great it is.

What really makes that plane different than something next to it, other than raw numbers?” Without that interaction, he says, “I guess that takes all the fun out of it, doesn’t it?”

Source: Flight Daily News