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VLJs Are Vital, Says LEA…But Not Perfect

Aviation - 24th September 2009

London, England, September 24 2009 – ‘Very Light Jets’ (VLJs) will play a key role in the future of European business aviation, but no one should believe that they will bring easy profits or easyJet prices.

That’s the opinion of Patrick Margetson-Rushmore, chief executive of London Executive Aviation (‘LEA’), one of Europe’s largest business jet charter operators.

LEA was the first private jet operator to introduce the Cessna Citation Mustang to the British Isles, in January 2008. The company is now operating six Mustangs, alongside six other classes of larger business jet, and has been the largest operator of VLJs and Mustangs in Europe for the past 20 months.

Speaking at ‘VLJ – Europe 2009′ in Oxford (UK) today, Margetson-Rushmore said: “The importance of VLJs will increase over time, but not everything is sweet and rosy in the VLJ ‘air taxi’ garden. We are still at an ideas stage of an unproven market. The industry expectation several years ago was that VLJs would bring low-cost business aviation. The reality is that operating  VLJs costs less than operating larger business jets but is by no means cheap. In terms of price, we are still in competition with aircraft such as the Cessna Citation CJ1 and CJ2, the Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1 and turboprops. In my view, therefore, VLJs are similar to the standard charter model, which invariably reflects upon the final price charged to the customer.

“In the current economic environment, it is impractical to expect to achieve 1,000 hours a year on short-range VLJ aircraft. That doesn’t mean the VLJ revolution has failed, but the industry needs to separate hype from fact. I believe that there has been, and indeed still is, over-optimism on the expected usage of these aircraft. Over the last 20 months we have achieved an average of 360 hours per annum per aircraft and, especially with the economic downturn, we’re very happy.

“For operators like ourselves, I think it will be a long haul to success for VLJ air taxi operations, which mainly depends on the marketplace and the development of the customer base. But we at LEA are committed to that long-haul effort, and we will probably expand our fleet with more Mustangs and Embraer Phenom 100s. We’ll achieve that expansion through our established ‘hybrid’ business model. Some of the aircraft we will own ourselves and charter, some of the aircraft we will manage for third parties and charter, and some of the aircraft we will simply manage for the owners.”

Margetson-Rushmore told delegates: “We see our Mustangs as our new entry-level jet – a stepping stone for our clients into the world of private flight, bringing down the cost and opening up the opportunities to a wider audience. The Mustang is perfect for the kind of short-haul flights with 1-3 passengers that dominate European business aviation. And pilots tell us that the Mustang is fun to fly, light and agile, with a great use of space and good overall performance.”


High-resolution photos of LEA chief executive Patrick Margetson-Rushmore and the Cessna Citation Mustang may be downloaded here.