The idea of very light aircraft was brought to the public consciousness by Eclipse Aviation. Sadly, Eclipse has had problems in its developments of a Very Light Jet (or VLJ) and the promises the company made never materialized. Very light aircraft are still considered business jets with specification of a lift-off weight under 10,000 pounds, flown by a single pilot, and a passenger load of approximately four people. They also require shorter runways which opens more airports than larger jets which need longer runways.
The promise of very light aircraft were their affordability. The smallest of private aircraft having a starting price tag of four million dollars and have significant pilot requirements. Eclipse attempted to develop a VLJ under for a sales price under one million dollars. Though they never did deliver such an aircraft, they did stir the imagination. New language was formed to accommodate the possibilities.
One such term is air taxi. That was the concept of an aircraft moving people short distances at a moments notice but at a lower cost than a chartering a private plane. As there are 5,400 small airports in the United States, there was hope that businesses would sprout up using very light aircraft to move people where or when commercial carriers do not. Also, as equipment and staffing costs were much lower than for commercial airlines, the price would be much cheaper. DayJet was a premier air-taxi company that came and went, but made an imprint as it had close ties with Eclipse Aviation. DayJet solely used Eclipse aircraft for its short time in operation and some point to it as proof of concept for an air taxi should very light aircraft become readily available.
There was also thoughts that more aircraft would produce more aviation infrastructure. As private plane usage became more common that more airports would be built as well as more refueling stations. VLJ have lower flight range and would need refueling for longer flights, primarily coast to coast type of trips.
Sadly, Eclipse Aviation has a sad history with delivering few aircraft, poor management, disappointing investors, and alienating interested buyers (buyers with deposits). Finally, Eclipse ended up in bankruptcy. Still, it is Eclipse which provided the platform and interest in very light aircraft. Cessna and Embraer continue to be benefactors of the Eclipse hype as they still produce models that are classed with the VLJ. Cirrus Design and other aircraft manufacturers are also attempting to enter the VLJ market.