8:04 AM

Try a PLJ on for size.

It's pretty hard these days to keep up on the LJ and VLJ horse race, but as I see it, the Citation Mustang is running in front of all others. There are few of us who can keep up on the almost daily developments in business jet aviation these days, and just when you think it could not get any more confusing, along comes the PLJ.

The what?

The Personal Light Jet, little brother to the VLJ, and about the most awesome way to remove a cool million from your life rather quickly. Vern Raburn, founder, chairman and CEO of Eclipse Aviation is qualified to explain the PLJ:

"The concept of the personal light jet makes sense. I believe there could be a very large market for the right single-engine jet, but not if it's dumbed down. It would have to cruise at least 300 KTAS and fly as high as 35,000 feet occasionally to escape the weather. And it will have to be priced close to a $1 million or lower to be viable."
One aviation writer out there who has the inside line on the full PLJ scoop is Business & Commercial Aviation's Fred George. His recent B&CA article on the coming PLJs is worth a look. He reports that Diamond, Eclipse, Piper and Cirrus are set to duke it out in the single-engine PLJ race, and the competition may turn out to be even more fast and furious than the VLJ wars. George makes an interesting point in his conclusion:
With prices starting at about $1 million and operating costs highly competitive with, if not less expensive than, those of piston twins, the emergence of the PLJ hastens the day when production of "high-performance" piston-powered general aviation airplanes ends, especially those used for personal business transportation. As even smaller, less-expensive turbofan engines are developed, future owner/operators may fly their entire careers without ever logging time in a piston-powered aircraft.
I've often found myself in the same camp as George, wondering out loud why someone hasn't developed a small, efficient turboprop for us GA guys and gals. I'm sure that the makers of Lycomings and Continentals may not agree, but really, who wouldn't want to spin a new technology composite prop with a hundred pounds of explosive turbine power and just a handful of moving parts in their Cirrus, Mooney, A36 or 206?

VLJ, PLJ, LJ...and now a new category, the RLJPCLGAA (Really Light Jet-Powered Cessna-like General Aviation Airplane). O.K., maybe that acronym needs work...

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