Eclipse Blames Layoffs on Sluggish VLJ Sales

 - August 19, 2014, 3:50 PM
Eclipse Aerospace laid off a “substantial” number of employees on August 15 at its Albuquerque, N.M. headquarters and facilities in Chicago and Charleston, S.C., citing slow sales for its very light jet. Most of the employees affected worked on the Eclipse 550 production line. (Photo: Eclipse Aerospace)

Just five months after celebrating the delivery of its first new-build Eclipse 550 light jet, Eclipse Aerospace laid off a “substantial” number of employees at its Albuquerque, N.M. headquarters and facilities in Chicago and Charleston, S.C., citing slow sales for its very light jet. “Although global market conditions continue to improve, the pace of economic improvement continues to challenge new aircraft sales,” Ed Lundeen, Eclipse’s senior vice president of business operations, told AIN. Eclipse has not disclosed how many of the company’s approximately 220 employees were affected, though Lundeen acknowledged that most of the reductions came from new aircraft production.

With the 2008 bankruptcy of the former Eclipse Aviation still fresh in the minds of many in New Mexico, the layoffs cast a spotlight on approximately $635,000 in city and state incentives Eclipse Aerospace has received to bring jobs to Albuquerque. City economic development officials told local media that Eclipse still intends to fulfill its obligation to hire 100 new manufacturing workers in Albuquerque by the end of next year, once sales rebound.

Since restarting production in March, the company has delivered 10 Eclipse 550s, in addition to supporting older Eclipse 500s and upgrading those airplanes to “Total Eclipse” specification. The company has also proposed the Eclipse 550 to replace the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of aging Beechjet 400-based T-1 Jayhawk trainers; although the USAF requested information from manufacturers last year, the service has yet to issue a request for proposal.