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More OR in the New York Times

There is more OR in the New York Times, not that they would mention our field by name. There is an article today about new air-taxi services. There are a number of new airplanes in the lightweight group (under 10,000 pounds) able to carry 4 passengers or so. This is leading a number of companies to start serious air-taxi services:

Enter the air taxi, an idea whose time has come. At least that is the hope of the entrepreneurs placing big bets on a new niche they plan to create in aviation. Their idea is to offer faster, more convenient air travel at a price that falls somewhere between private jets and commercial airlines.

For years, questions about the size of an air taxi market have been largely theoretical. But that will change this year, as Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque begins building the Eclipse 500, a six-seat plane. The company expects the plane will receive its long-awaited certification from the Federal Aviation Administration as soon as this week.

With the Eclipse, two start-up airlines, Linear Air and DayJet, say they can ferry business travelers to hard-to-reach outposts with fewer frustrations — and get them home in time for dinner with their families.

Economically, these jets cost somewhere between commercial prices and charter prices:

Air taxi operators say they can offer customers seats ranging from $1 to $3 a mile, compared with $9 to $13 a mile on charter jets, or up to $15 a mile on slightly larger private jets. Regional commercial airlines like SkyWest, by contrast, average less than 16 cents a mile flying 50-seat planes, but as much as five times that on less-traveled routes where air taxis plan to compete, industry executives say.

Of course, key to efficiency is (what else?) operations research:

Making Mr. Iacobucci’s flying limo work will require substantial computing power to analyze routes and passengers’ schedules almost instantly. That does not deter Mr. Iacobucci, who spent his career in the software industry, first at I.B.M. and later at Microsoft. He spent $20 million and four years developing DayJet’s reservation system. DayJet has already ordered 239 Eclipse 500’s, making it Eclipse Aviation’s biggest customer.

I love the way newspapers use a word like “analyze” when the reality is that signficant modeling and optimization must be done to handle systems such as this.

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