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Editor’s Monthly Letter.

Seven

First. The matter is that each small car owner dreams to switch to a bigger and more comfortable vehicle. The only question is to find the right balance between costs and needs. A small car is no good for long trips while downtown streets may be too narrow for a big one. As per airplanes there is not much sense (if you’re not claustrophobic, of course) in switching from a Citation Mustang to a G550 if your routes average one flight hour.

All that seems clear. Sure, a direct comparison between the automobile and business jet market is not quite correct. However it’s worth to think it over. The smallest cars are not the biggest market segment actually and the streets are not exactly swarming with them.

Second. Another illustration. When Beech introduced the piston single Bonanza in the late 1940s analysts forecast a huge market between 2000—4000 aircraft per year and magazines speculated on a future that might see an airplane in every garage. Advanced technology and an attractive price tag fueled such expectation. Bonanza did become successful. But to tell the truth actual delivery rates were significantly below those crystal-ball figures.

Third. Many new clean-sheet business jet models have been introduced in the past few months. Most of them are not VLJs. Even VLJ-positive analysts consider high-end business jets as the main market drivers which are to accumulate the lion’s share of industry billings.

Fourth. Aviation is very conservative. Drastic innovations can hardly break through. This concerns both new technology and new business models. It took around a decade for the fractional ownership program to get through turbulence. No doubt the fractional segment stimulates the market. But to be honest it’s not the reason of the current industry boom.

Fifth. I was talking about VLJs as you may have already guessed. A new market – excellent! The air taxi concept – that’s also very good. However there are no definite signs of its success in practice so far. And why do air taxi operators target VLJs only? Is this the only class capable to prove the concept?

Sixth. We see the VLJ as a kind of advanced replacement for piston aircraft. It’s a sort of premium segment for wealthy pilots-owners who consider conventional business jets as quite expensive toys.

Seventh. There’s no doubt that VLJs will occupy their own market niche. But will the production rate average thousands per year? It’s doubtful. The figures of the 2007 year-end and 1Q 2008 shipment reports look rather impressive. But this is the very beginning and manufacturers have to cover a solid backlog. It makes sense to consider the volume of new firm orders when estimating future delivery rates for VLJs. And it may be a good idea to consider the prospects of the companies placing such orders. Then we could get a more realistic picture on the future of VLJs.

The end.

Sincerely, At least not so optimistic on VLJ prospects in Russia, Alexey Korolev


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