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Single-pilot ops

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Two pilots are still the norm, but here we review a list of corporate jets that can be flown by only one pilot.


By René Armas Maes
Contributing Writer

While most business jets require a 2-pilot crew, a number of private jet types are certified for single-pilot ops. Bizjet manufacturers have developed and continue upgrading products in this segment, targeting, among others, owners of self-flown light jets.

Benefits of operating and flying your own business jet include seating flexibility and lower operating costs. In this compendium, we feature a selection of single-pilot-certified bizjets currently available.

Cirrus
Cirrus Vision Jet

Cirrus

SF50 Vision Jet is the only jet featuring a single-engine configuration in the single-pilot-certified business jet category. Its Williams FJ33-5A engine burns 65 gph and has an output of 1900 lb of thrust, enabling a maximum cruise speed of 311 kts (250 kts at long-range cruise [LRC] power setting).

The Vision Jet has a max range of 1275 nm and a service ceiling of 31,000 ft. It seats 1 pilot plus 6 passengers. One safety system in the Vision Jet is the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. The Vision Jet is also certified with Garmin’s Safe Return Emergency Autoland, which allows passengers to land the jet at the touch of a button in the event the pilot becomes incapacitated.

The automatic landing feature can be activated after takeoff and can transform the Vision Jet into an autonomous personal jet that communicates with air traffic control, displays status updates to passengers, and navigates to the nearest airport for a safe landing.

The Vision Jet features Garmin’s Perspective Touch+ flight deck, which enhances performance, safety, and situational awareness. The estimated total variable cost per flight is around $800.

Embraer

Phenom 100EV. Embraer launched a refreshed version of its Phenom 100/100E light jet with new avionics, improved speed, faster climb rate, better hot/high and full fuel payload performance, and shorter takeoff distance capabilities.

The Phenom 100EV is powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F1-E engines consuming 113 gph. It offers 2 distinct temperature zones for superior pilot and passenger comfort, and features the segment’s largest entrance door and windows, which improve ambient lighting for added passenger comfort and productivity.

It also has a fully enclosed rear lavatory. In the cockpit, Embraer’s Prodigy Flight Deck, built on the Garmin G3000 system, has graphical flight planning, vertical navigation, windshear alerting, and weather radar with vertical scan, ground clutter suppression, and turbulence detection.

The Phenom 100EV seats 1 pilot and 7 passengers, delivers a maximum range close to 1180 nm, a service ceiling of 41000 ft, a max cruising speed of 405 kts (LRC is 360 kts), and balanced field length (BFL) performance of 3138 ft at 10,580-lb maximum takeoff weight (MTOW). Estimated total variable cost per flight hour is $2040.

Phenom
Embraer Phenom 300E

Phenom 300E is the best-selling light business jet. Embraer has upgraded the aircraft with new technology, including next-generation avionics and a wholly redesigned cabin interior.

The Phenom 300E is the largest, fastest single-pilot bizjet. It is also the one with the longest range.

Maximum range is close to 2000 nm, service ceiling is 45,000 ft, max cruising speed is 453 kts (LRC is 385 kts). The Phenom 300E seats 1 pilot plus 10 pax. BFL performance is 3700 ft at an MTOW of 17,526 lb. In the cockpit, it features Embraer’s Prodigy Flight Deck.

And its Oval Lite cabin provides the most head- and leg-room of any light jet, featuring new seats with retractable armrests, thigh supports, and tracks that enable passengers to pivot away from the side walls to increase leg space. The Phenom 300E is powered by 2 Pratt & Whitney PW535E1 engines consuming 185 gph. Estimated total variable cost per flight hour is $2860.

Honda Aircraft

HondaJet
Honda

HA-420 HondaJet Elite S. Honda Aircraft developed a carbon composite fuselage focusing on keeping the overall weight of its HA-420 down while employing single-sheet reinforced aluminum wings to reduce drag.

The aircraft’s over-the-wing engine mount displaces noise emissions away from the cabin, resulting in a much quieter ride for passengers. In 2021, the Honda Jet was refreshed with 2 new variants. The Elite S upgrade features improved flight performance with new avionics features and increased MTOW.

Data from AMSTAT indicates that the HondaJet Elite S delivers a maximum range of 1437 nm, with a service ceiling of 43,000 ft and maximum cruise speed of 422 kts (LRC is 360 kts). BFL performance is 3500 ft at an MTOW of 10,700 lb. The HondaJet Elite S can carry 1 pilot and 7 passengers, and has a standard private aft lavatory with flushing toilet.

For the pilot, the jet is equipped with Garmin 3000 avionics featuring a trio of 14-in touchscreens. It is powered by 2 GE Honda HF120 engines that burn 148 gph. Estimated total variable cost per flight hour is $2637. The 2nd variant is the HondaJet 2600 Concept. Features include natural laminar flow technology on wings, fuselage, and nose.

The 1st single-pilot light jet capable of nonstop flight across the US, the HondaJet 2600 Concept has a quiet and spacious cabin suited for long-range travel. It offers a range of 2625 nm and features 450-kt high-speed cruise at a ceiling of 47,000 ft.

Pilatus

PC24
Pilatus PC-24

PC-24. Introduced in 2013, deliveries started in 2018.  Pilatus decided to brand it the super versatile jet, following its heritage of turboprop versatility coupled with light jet performance and a medium/light jet cabin size.

The PC-24 is capable of operating in and out of unpaved runways, and has superior short field takeoff and landing capability, with a BFL of 2650 ft at an MTOW of 18,300 lb.

The aircraft delivers a maximum range of 2000 nm, a service ceiling of 45,000 ft, maximum cruise speed of 440 kts (LRC is 360 kts), and seats 1 pilot plus 9 passengers. Its twin Williams FJ44-4A engines consume only 160 gph. In the cockpit, the PC-24 features 4 12-in screens that allow 1 pilot to arrange all relevant flight information to improve system efficiency and enhance situational awareness.

It features synthetic vision system (SVS), autothrottle capabilities, graphical flight planning, traffic collision avoidance system II (TCAS II), and vertical guidance. Estimated total variable cost per flight hour is $2652.

Textron Aviation

textron
Citation M2 Gen2

Citation M2 Gen2 was launched at NBAA-BACE 2021. Key updates to this light jet focused on aircraft design and technology while increasing comfort and productivity for passengers and pilots.

The M2 Gen2 was designed for corporate, charter, and private missions. As per AMSTAT database, the M2 Gen2 delivers a maximum range of 1550 nm and has a service ceiling of 41,000 ft. It is powered by 2 Williams FJ44-1AP-21 turbofans consuming 120 gph, offers a maximum cruising speed of 404 kts with (LRC is 310 kts), seats 1 pilot plus 6 passengers, and offers a BFL performance of 3210 ft at an MTOW of 10,700 lb. M2 Gen2 offers an improved interior and a stylish cabin design with multiple layouts and customizable configurations.

An optional cabin management system with moving maps and inflight entertainment system can be added to satisfy customers for whom onboard connectivity is a must. In the cockpit, the user-friendly Garmin G3000 avionics suite features touchscreens with SVS. The M2 Gen2 is equipped with a fully digital, dual-channel autopilot system that has many redundancy features for added safety and operational dispatch reliability.

The estimated total variable cost per flight hour is $2315 – assuming jet fuel price at $7.50/gal. Note that said fuel price will be constant when comparing other bizjets in this article.

CostsCitation CJ3+ was certified in 2014 while aiming to deliver superior reliability without sacrificing productivity and comfort. The aircraft single-pilot operators an improved combination of range and speed as well as reasonable operating costs compared to its predecessor – the CJ3.

In the cockpit, the Garmin G3000 avionics suite offers tactile controls on large displays, and fully digital dual-channel autopilot amplifying system redundancy and safety features. Its quiet cabin enables a productive environment with natural light from 14 large windows.

The CJ3+ has a maximum range of 1800 nm and a service ceiling of 45,000 ft. It is powered by 2 Williams FJ44-3A engines that consume 140 gph, delivering reliable, efficient maintenance and lower direct operating costs. Its maximum cruise speed is 416 kts (LRC is 359 kts), and it has a BFL performance of 3354 ft at an MTOW of 13,870 lb.

The aircraft accommodates 1 pilot plus 8 pax, and has a refreshment center upfront that can be replaced by a side-facing seat to maximize passenger capacity. The 4 front seats in the CJ3+ are arranged in a club configuration and feature an executive table. Estimated total variable cost per flight hour is $2406.

Conclusion

As enhanced engine capabilities, cabin upgrades, and other aviation technologies advance, we can expect improvements in terms of direct operation costs and aircraft range. Although we have evaluated a number of performance parameters and estimated operating cost metrics in this article, self-flown operators in the single-pilot bizjet segment must review carefully a number of other areas to make a sound financial and operational decision, such as residual value, warranty, and the level of service and technical support offered by the manufacturer.


reneeRené Armas Maes is vp commercial, Jet Link Intl. He is an international aviation consultant who has developed business aviation projects for Fortune 500 companies, venture capital firms, and HNWIs, ranging from corporate travel assessments and fleet planning to market analysis and demand forecasting.