April 25, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

Aerial taxis preparing for takeoff

A plan to shuttle commuters from city to city aboard five- and six-seater aerial taxis could be off the ground by next year.

Starting in mid-2006, DayJet (formerly Jetson Systems) plans to transport people between regional airports in the United States whenever passengers want. Need to get from Palo Alto in Northern California to Bakersfield in the southern part of the state and back the same day? For a moderate premium, DayJet, which calls itself a "per-seat, on-demand" air service, will do it.

The idea is to cater to business travelers who don't want to drive, but who also want to avoid the delays and stopovers that can plague jaunts between secondary cities on conventional airlines.


What's new:
Start-up DayJet is ready to launch a low-cost aerial taxi service for travel between midsize cities.

Bottom line:
Charter air travel isn't cheap, and it can be a hassle, factors that create an opening for new on-demand airlines. New technology helps the upstarts, but how much lift can they really get?

More stories on aviation technology

"This is a transportation system that adapts to your needs," said Ed Iacobucci, founder of software maker Citrix Systems and the man behind DayJet. "It is not about serving New York to Atlanta. It is more about serving the secondary and tertiary markets with a point-to-point network."

On-demand airlines have emerged as one of the buzzwords and potential opportunities in the field of aviation. Last month, at the Flight School conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., People Express founder Donald Burr discussed Pogo Jet, which will provide similar services, while Corporate Clipper will aggregate and book seats on these new types of airlines. (Flight School is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of News.com).

Currently, charter services provide on-demand flying services, but the expense--about $4 to $10 a mile--has put those services out of reach of most consumers and business travelers. The price, Iacobucci said, "tends to be $1 a mile for these regional flights" on conventional carriers.

DayJet (and, to a similar degree, its competitors) hope to exploit two technological achievements--lightweight components and scheduling software--to bring down the cost of these type of flights to around 75 cents to $3 a mile, somewhat close to the cost of tickets on conventional airlines today.

These new airlines will likely have to overcome consumer skepticism, said Henry Harteveldt, an analyst at Forrester Research. Will people be scared to fly in small planes? Will they miss conveniences, such as bathrooms? Will corporate travel offices spring for the transportation?

Eclipse 500

Still, "if the price is right, it might take people off the road," Harteveldt said. "It could even compete against people like JetBlue and American Eagle."

The first technological breakthrough is a new type of light airplane that's comparatively inexpensive to manufacture and fly. The Eclipse 500, from Eclipse Aviation, for instance, can hit a maximum speed of 375 knots, carry five or six people (including pilots) and fly for about 300 to 600 miles.

The plane will sell for $1.3 million, less than conventional small planes, and weigh less, which cuts down on fuel costs. The advantages in weight and cost come in part from the use of semiconductors to replace many mechanical controls. The two Pratt & Whitney engines that power it measure only about 14 inches long and weigh less than most engines of their type. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is an investor in Eclipse.

"We live and die by grams," Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn said.

DayJet has an order with Eclipse for 239 airplanes, with an option to buy 70 more. The planes will be delivered

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The International Marketplace
It will be quite interesting to see if these proposals can take of also in the international marketplace particularly in places like the Caribbean (with their geographical area represented by an islands chain) and the Latin American region on the whole.
Posted by (187 comments )
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Not cheap
These flights may be convenient, but they will not be cheap. This
is still a high end product.
Posted by chabig83 (535 comments )
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Cost, Luxury Convenience may go Hand-in-Hand!
Additionally, if these flights turn out to be as convenient as they were promised to be... then considerations should be given by the carriers with regards to the question of these becoming "feeder" services for the replacement Supersonic (Concorde) flights ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.onera.fr/cahierdelabo/english/asup_ind01.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.onera.fr/cahierdelabo/english/asup_ind01.htm</a> ) from "airports" that be too far away to be convenient to "would-be" executive, celebrity, vacationing or commercial travellers. A very good scenario for computer software and company executives to put their financial, economic and technical "wizardry" to the test... Question: Will these ventures be economically feasible!!!
Posted by (187 comments )
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Anyone got a ticker symbol?
This looks like an investment worth looking into... I can see businesses using a service like this very frequently, if the cards are played right?
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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That last statement wasn't a question...
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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Which of these is not a question - Cost, Luxury, Convenience...
Since it is the understanding that these modes of travel are not going to be for "free" then there naturally have to be the "questions" with regards to the costs that will be involved, how much luxury will be afforded and how convenient this form of travel will be, et cetera, et cetera. Lets see some figures someone: and; yes, if "other people's money" will be involved some sort of homework has to be done with regards to the profitability of these manufacturing (aircraft) and services (travel and aircraft maintenance) businesses.

Posted by (187 comments )
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