Suffocating regulations and restricted airspace usage may limit the success of very light jets in European skies, if predictions by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Joint Aviation Authorities' Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB) are borne out.

Although it is recognised that Europe - with its denser, more complex airspace and fickle weather - is a more difficult marketplace for VLJs, now agencies like EASA, the JAA and the air navigation service providers are beginning to spell out just what they have in mind.

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Joint Aviation Requirements at present would allow a single private pilot to command a corporate flight if it were operated as a private one - but that has also to be ratified by each member state's national aviation authority (NAA).

However, the standards for gaining and keeping current a private pilot's licence, including a mandatory certificate of high performance aeroplane (HPA) training, would demand considerable time and a professional level of dedication.

To operate in Europe's extensive controlled airspace, the same PPL commander would also have a full instrument rating.

The JAA has confirmed that, as predicted, a VLJ operating as an air taxi under instrument flight rules would have to have a crew of two pilots, one with a full air transport pilot licence and the other with at least a commercial pilot's licence.

At present EASA is in charge of flight crew licensing, but the FCL issues raised by the advent of VLJs is being considered at present by the JOEB on a type-by-type basis, so the outcomes are still uncertain.

The JOEB will, in due course, make recommendations for EASA to consider and then implement.

At the Eurocontrol-hosted VLJ Workshop in Brussels earlier this month, EASA spelled out in detail what it called "the qualification challenge". This addressed not only the FCL issue, but also whether VLJs can be realistically accommodated in air routes at the 9,150-12,200m (30,000-40,000ft) levels most popular with airlines that fly faster aircraft.

Senior sources at influential European NAAs forsee VLJs being confined to levels below 8,840m (29,000ft) or less.

EASA lists level busts, airspace incursions, runway incursions and pilot fatigue as examples of potentially heightened operational risks associated with single-pilot operated VLJs.

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