Panel on Air Taxi Operations Says VLJs, Air Taxi Hold Great Promise

ORLANDO, FL, October 8, 2008 – At a session yesterday, a panel of industry experts discussed the latest in technology and innovation with regard to technologically advanced aircraft (TAA) and very light jets ( VLJs) in air taxi operations.

Air taxi companies aim to facilitate business travel, offering on-demand air transportation with per-hour fares, replacing long hours of driving and more expensive or time-consuming air travel options. Panelists stressed that air taxi operations are in no way a competition for commercial aviation, but rather are complementary to the carriers.

A series of key issues discussed included standardization of business models and operational practices, current market challenges, and shared goals and predictions for the future of air taxi operations. While panelists emphasized rapid growth and acceptance of the air taxi model, all agreed that their operations are not yet well enough known or understood to make definitive conclusions.

In spite of a very real need to generate more public awareness of air taxi operations, panelists also shared the challenge of demand outweighing supply for their services, with not enough aircraft or pilots on hand yet. While newcomers to the service may have initial apprehensions, "Our customer retention is unbelievable," said panelist Stephan Hanvey, president and CEO of SATSair, citing upwards of 80 percent customer retention. Linear Air President and CEO William Herp explained that the two most important investments for the sustained growth of the air taxi operations market are in infrastructure and communication.

Panelists were enthusiastic about "NextGen" technologies facilitating air taxi operations into smaller airports. Regarding questions of customer attitudes toward safety, Cirrus’ parachute technology is extremely popular. Hanvey stressed technological advancement of aircraft and pilot training, rather than number of pilots or engines, as the most important safety features of any air taxi operation.

Despite the current economic crisis and the high cost of fuel, the air taxi operations market is an important resource, particularly to those seeking to downsize current business aviation budgets. "It’s a real value proposition – like fractional ownership did, the SR22 opens a whole new window for air travel," said Hanvey. Leader noted that air taxi operations are being received nationally and internationally as a compelling economic argument.

Panelists closed the session emphasizing that their enterprises are in cooperation with each other, rather than competition. "We feed off of each other, because it’s a growing industry with enormous demand; the more we all grow, the better for all of us," said Herp.

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