Several technological advances in recent years have led to the current feasibility of the Small Aircraft Transportation System.
In 1996, NASA initiated the General Aviation Propulsion (GAP) program to encourage and advance the U.S. light-aircraft industry. The GAP program's main goal was to help develop more affordable propulsion systems, mainly engines. Williams International joined with NASA to develop the FJX-2 turbofan engine, the smallest commercial turbofan available at the time. It weighed less than 45.4 kg (100 lbs), with a thrust-to-weight ratio that would allow the development of a new class of lightweight aircraft. This technological breakthrough was a major step forward in the drive to create aircraft small enough to use local airports but sophisticated enough to meet the necessary speed, range, comfort and safety requirements of a commercial aircraft.
In 1998, during the development of the FJX-2 engine, Williams International's president and founder, Dr. Sam Williams, joined with entrepreneur Vern Raburn to form the Eclipse Aviation Corporation. Using first a commercial version of the FJX-2 engine, called the EJ22, and then choosing the PW610F turbine engine from Pratt & Whitney instead, Eclipse built the Eclipse 500 jet aircraft.
The Eclipse 500 debuted in 2005, the first of a new family of aircraft, the very light jet (VLJ). The VLJ is a vital cog in the SATS wheel.