I often think that if Cirrus Design were based in the Twin Cities instead of Duluth, it’d be a bigger “Minnesota” story than it is. The company has, over the last decade or so, become the most influential general aviation aircraft maker in the country (with a nod to Cessna).
Today, the company pushed a new boundary that has the real possibility of changing all sorts of things about aviation — it flew its personal jet for the first time.
You know, no doubt, about the small planes that buzz all over the country. Now, there is likely to be a transformation from piston engines to jet engines in some of those small planes. The so-called very-light jet category (VLJ) is aimed at the business flyer. It’s no secret — or shouldn’t be — that I’m a big aviation guy, but I’m not convinced that the aviation world is ready for this.
Already, small airports are closing in the United State every day. Despite the best intentions (in most cases) of the private pilot to be a good neighbor, many people don’t want airplanes flying around their houses, even though the airports were there first. The VLJ is designed to fly into airports which are too small now for standard jet traffic. That introduces the possibility of new fronts in the airport noise debate.
My pilot friends will be very mad at me for pointing this out but it’s anticipated there will be up to 20,000 VLJs within two years flying around the country, and airlines, which have a habit of blaming general aviation for ills of their own making, have got a few high-powered friends believing that air traffic congestion will result.
Supporters of VLJ point out, on the other hand, that the airlines are grounding their flights to lower costs and raise fares and if people are finding alternative ways to navigate by air, then whose fault is that?