Monday, September 22, 2008

Air Taxis Seek to Fill DayJet Gap

{Above: The Cirrus SR22}

Incremental news on air taxis may be pretty small beer on a day that begins with me reading the following sentence in the Wall Street Journal: "With the move, Wall Street as it has been known will cease to exist."

Excuse me while I grab another mug of coffee and assimilate that.

Anyway, a group of air-taxi providers who mostly use Cirrus SR22 propeller planes says it can fill the service gap left in the Southeast by DayJet, the pioneering air-taxi company that suddenly ceased operations on Friday.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on the Cirrus SR22, which is best known for a unique feature, a parachute designed to ease the plane -- which has only one pilot -- to the ground in a dire emergency.

DayJet, which had 28 Eclipse 500 very-light jets and had orders for about 1,400 more, had established a market in Florida and nearby states with its on-demand, per-seat model. But DayJet badly needed investment capital to expand in order to make its business model work, and the dry-up in the credit markets finally brought the company down. Meanwhile, with the collapse of its major customer exacerbating growing production and other problems, Eclipse Aviation, maker of the Eclipse 500, has an uncertain future.

Still, given service cutbacks by major airlines that make a simple trip from, say, Tampa to Tallahassee an day-ordeal, usually with a stopover in some place like Atlanta, it's apparent to me that the air-taxi business has a market. The question is, will that market be served by small jets like the Eclipse 500, or will it be served by propeller planes and turbo-props, with proven reliability, known availability and better fuel efficiency?


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