Tuesday, January 22, 2008
VLJ's...ripe for Sub Saharan Africa GEO!
About a year ago a couple of pilots and I compiled a business plan for launching a Very Light Jet (VLJ) charter company in South Africa (Johannesburg - Lanseria Airport) - similar to DayJet in the USA. If you don't know about VLJ's it's a really interesting area within aviation; This industry has not undergone any major innovation changes in the past 40-50 years and the VLJ concept promises to revolutionize it completely.
There are two options for pilots today; Trikes, fixed wing; single props, turbo props and then you start pricing into ranges unaffordable to the regular guy...in fact...there are several single prop planes that most of the worlds population could not afford. The second option is the jet engine ranges...into the commercial jumbo arena.
In essense there has never been something in between low cost and absurdly expensive. Besides the ticket listing prices...maintaining and operating these "traditional" aircraft is beyond most of us. Again, VLJ's are meant to change this game.
VLJ simplistic and generic stats:
Price: USD$1m - $3million
Range: 1000nm - 2000nm
Seating: 2 pilots & 3-5-6 passengers
Speed: 315-420knots (583km/h - 778 km/h)
At that price and range it becomes an awesome spec for launching a charter company and attacking the traditional airline business and first class passengers.
1. Crowds - Traditional low cost airlines have resulted in a broad majority of our airports being flooded by the larger masses now able to afford that economy class ticket from Jhb to CT.
2. Terrorism - besides the obvious threats, since 9/11 airport security has become a horrible experience to executive passengers.
3. Delays/Congestion - due to the masses airports are expanding their fleets and thus traffic jams on runways.
4. Costs/competition - traditional airlines are very reliant on the business class passenger cause the margins on economy are really being squeezed.
5. Seasonal inconvenience - ever tried flying in the holidays? - I say no more!
These class of passengers are sick and tired of the long checkin lines.
6. Complexity - airlines routes are extremely arcane and it's hard to just get to where you want to, without landing at another city...also...ever tried changing your ticket?
7. Overall loss of productivity - I wonder what the annual losses corporations experience due to the above six points...including the actual productivity loss of their executive crowd...?
So...the low cost airline business attacked the long tail of travel and has done a great job of overall reduction in cost of travel...I believe VLJ's could create a category of service that attacks the executive/business & first class traveller.
Besides the convenience factor, the specs of the aircraft are PERFECT for the Sub-Saharan GEO - the range of 2000km ensures a base in Johannesburg reaches the entire country without a stop and deep enough into Africa to cover it in a similar manner. (Note: When we did some due diligence on how much African political delegations spend on air travel from neighbouring states to South Africa - we got to a figure of R6.8 billion per annum - to them a VLJ service into Johannesburg would be a no-brainer and easy to sell!)
The VLJ in the pic all the at the top of this blog is the one Honda is building - they're still going through the FAA certification in the USA - the sexiest of them all ;) [Check out their web site]
So...will someone do this already? I just can't find the time...or have the friends willing to throw a couple million dollars at the opportunity ;) Besides, the waiting list for some of these jets is 3-5 years!
Here are some interesting links to check out:
* VLJ definition
* List of VLJ's
* List of current VLJ operators
* Phillip Greenspun recently compiled his take on the various options - great insight!
* VLJ Magazine
Somebody please do this in South Africa - think of all those world cup visitors that'll want to be jetted across the region...