Firm Hopes to Bring "Very Light Jet" Service to Hayward Airport

[Editor's note: Hayward City Council member Olden Henson made a promotional presentation about "very light jets" at the July 26, 2007 meeting of the City Council Airport Commmittee.]

MARCH 18, 2008

It's the stuff of a Jetsons cartoon tiny, noiseless jets taking off from general aviation airports like Concord's Buchanan Field with the ease of a feather. Business executives could fly off to a meeting in Reno, only to turn around and come back the same day with nary a hair out of place.

Aviation enthusiasts have been predicting this air travel revolution since 2000, when an Albuquerque-based company announced its Eclipse 500 an inexpensive, low-pollution jet made of aluminum, with whisper-quiet engines the size of duffel bags. The kicker: It costs less than half as much as a larger, more conventional jet $1.8 million, compared with $5 million.

The first Eclipse was sold last Christmas. And Concord just got one the first in the East Bay at Buchanan Airport. It belongs to a company called Pacific Coast Jet, and its managing partners are looking to sell the plane off in fourths. A buyer would then own an interest in the plane and could fly in it pretty much anytime. The company offers its piloting services, along with storage and ongoing maintenance.

Pacific Coast Jet is planning to partner with the Hayward Executive Airport as well, noting that its runways and capacities are similar to Buchanan's.

In a few months' time, the company could be chartering these jets, or selling trips to people who don't have an ownership interest.

"It's basically taking jet travel to the masses," said Jesse Ahearn, the company's chief pilot and managing partner. "It's cheaper than a regular jet that's the main draw." "There's no real service like that here," said Mike Panico, Ahearn's business partner. "People here who like to go to Tahoe leave at 5 p.m. on a Friday after work and hit traffic, and then they've got to turn around and come back in a couple of days."

But with the Eclipse, he says, a small party could drive right up to the tarmac, bypassing long security lines and traffic congestion at and around major airports. Experts have said it would change the way people fly, producing mini versions of United Airlines or Southwest.

Known as Very Light Jets, or VLJs, these aircraft could be taking families to Disneyland for a weekend, to Truckee in 30 minutes, to Napa in six. They can climb 35,000 feet in 19 minutes because of their light body (6,000 pounds fully fueled) and new engine technology. Though the VLJ is only 33 feet long and 11 feet tall, it can fly the same altitude as a regular jet. A one-fourth ownership interest, Ahearn said, would cost about $500,000 less than any jet buyer has ever paid, he added. He and Panico expect companies or business executives to jump at the chance to own a slice.

Source: Daily Review