You may recall a John Sebastian song from the ’60s called “Younger Generation.” It describes a future in which three-year-olds test their parents’ patience by asking permission to ride their “zooms.” That’s a vehicle that “goes 200 miles an hour suspended on balloons.”
Well, the future has arrived in the form of Vision Jet, the world’s first single-engine personal jet. And while the flying machine may be slightly beyond the capacity of a toddler, the pilot/owner has very little responsibility beyond locating his favorite Sirius XM radio station.
“It’s remarkably simple to fly,” explains Ben Kowalski, Cirrus’s vice president for marketing and communications, as we head down the Hudson River past the Manhattan skyline. “You reach a point where there’s not much more to do than sit back and enjoy the view.”
The jet, which costs just under $2 million and boasts a waiting list of 600, has a range of 1,150 miles and flies at 345 mph. Five of the aircraft have been delivered thus far.
The target demographic isn’t corporate CEO’s or rock stars that need to cross continents in a single bound. Rather it’s being marketed as a “regional mobility” device that allows lawyers or real estate developers—very successful ones—to meet with multiple, far-flung clients in a single day. It also doubles as a useful way for them to drop in on their kids at college or visit their vacation homes on holiday weekends while soaring above traffic.
But let’s dispense with details such as the most advanced avionics in the general aviation industry (pretty much everything is touch screen) and the muscular single-piece carbon-fiber fuselage, and get to the fun stuff. As useful as Vision Jet may be as a mode of transportation, it’s basically a toy. The windows are huge, the interior, premium leather; cup holders abound and a USB charging port is at every seat. It carries up to five adults and two children. One of the seats can be replaced by a bathroom with a curtain.
But integral to its allure is that it’s designed to be flown by a single pilot, which I did over Long Island, turning north over the Hamptons, and heading home.
Matt Bergwall, Vision Jet’s product manager and our pilot, was by my side in case I tapped the wrong screen. But with the plane’s stability augmentation system it was hard to screw up. Even better, it comes with a colorful parachute that, in case of emergency, will float the aircraft gently to Earth.
Hopefully you’ll never have to use it. While the plane can’t quite land itself, “it can bring us down right to the runway,” says Bergwall.
And it did.