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Panel Discusses Current and Future Very Light Jet Market at NBAA2008

ORLANDO, FL, October 7, 2008 –Hundreds of Attendees at the National Business Aviation Association’s 61st Annual Meeting & Convention (NBAA2008) yesterday packed into a panel discussion on very light jets (VLJs) featuring officials from VLJ manufacturers.

“[VLJs still are] something that catches the imagination of the business aviation industry, certainly of the general public,” said NBAA’s Mike Nichols, vice president, operations, education & economics. In the past year we’ve seen a number of changes in the VLJ marketplace, Nichols said, certainly in regard to manufacturers and air taxi operations.

Rick Schrameck of Epic Aviation said he expected the country as a whole to struggle somewhat with credit and finances for the next 18 to 24 months. Some VLJ manufacturers have gone outside of the North American marketplace for buyers, according to panel experts, but there are still orders on the books if and when sales drop off. Epic makes the Elite and Victory light jets.

According to Schrameck and Michael McConnell of Eclipse, buyers of VLJs are in it for the long haul, convinced it is the right aircraft for their mission needs. But uncertainty causes inaction, McConnell said, and over the past three years, there has been a rise in the need for flexible air travel domestically and abroad.

Customers who ordered Eclipse 500 single-engine VLJs as long as eight years ago are generally self-made entrepreneurs, McConnell said, and more recent customers have been charter or air taxi operations.

According to news organizations, DayJet was Eclipse Aviation’s largest customer with a planned eventual delivery of 1,400 aircraft for the pay-by-the-seat air taxi operation. However, Dayjet discontinued jet services in September and cancelled all future flights as a result of the company’s inability to arrange critical financing, according to the company’s web site. McConnell told Attendees that Eclipse never built its model on DayJet’s orders, and that the VLJ marketplace is a thriving one. “The market for single-engine turbine aircraft just like Cirrus and Diamond, we think is the next big thing. The turbinization of general aviation aircraft is the next big thing,” he said.

Claudio Camelier of Embraer said he has noticed a positive response to the company’s Phenom 100 VLJ. People are excited and the market could be a strong one.

“This NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention is the first time we are displaying both the Phenom 100 and 300 to the general public in the U.S., and it was wonderfully surprising to see people’s reactions, calling their friends and saying ‘You have to see this airplane, it’s amazing.’”

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