Eclipse partners with United on pilot training for Eclipse jet

 - February 2, 2007, 10:25 AM

It will likely surprise AIN readers to learn that Eclipse Aviation has changed its plans for initial and recurrent pilot training by forming an alliance with United Airlines.
Since May this year, the Albuquerque, N.M.-based developer of the Eclipse 500 very light jet has been promoting its own in-house program–which it called the “Eclipse Safety System”–as the pinnacle of what VLJ buyers can expect in the way of training, the model on which it hoped, for the good of the whole industry, all VLJ developers would base their own training programs. (The subjects of VLJ pilot training and insurability were covered in depth in AIN’s September issue, and the discussion of the topics generated considerable controversy in the form of letters to the editor in AIN’s October issue.)

Now, rather than handling training entirely in-house as originally envisioned, Eclipse said last month it has turned to United Flight Training Center (UFTC) in Denver–which in turn has entered into a separate agreement with Boeing-owned Alteon to provide the instructor pilots for the program. Training would take place at UFTC using full-motion simulators and conforming with a curriculum co-developed by United and Eclipse.

The structure of the program remains as Eclipse initially defined it. Buyers of Eclipse 500s will first undergo an initial flight skills assessment (and supplemental training, if required). Under the new arrangement, the assessment program has expanded to a day-long commitment. A self-paced computer-based study program follows; then unexpected- situations hands-on training; the type-rating transition course; and a post-certification mentoring program. Regular recurrent training is an integral part of the pilot regime.

The cost of training for one pilot is included in the purchase price of an Eclipse 500, excepting a required upset-training recovery course in an Aero Vodochody L-39 military jet trainer ($995). Recurrent training sessions for Eclipse pilots are priced at $2,995.

Initial training for additional pilots will cost $8,449 each, including the assessment session and the upset training. United expects to be ready to begin its first pilot assessments for Eclipse buyers in about six months. The Eclipse 500 is scheduled for certification in 2006.

According to Eclipse and United, UFTC is credited with developing line-oriented flight training, flight operations quality assurance and cockpit resource management, and the facility is currently developing single-pilot cockpit resource management for the Eclipse program. UFTC conducts more than 1,400 pilot training sessions monthly at its 610,000-sq-ft facility in Denver. Its 75 outside customers include the U.S. Air Force, NASA and the FAA. Don Taylor, hired in 1999 by Eclipse Aviation founder Vern Raburn as v-p of safety, training and flight operations, was formerly a United 747 captain.

At the same time it announced the training partnership with United, Eclipse also revealed that AIG Aviation has agreed to underwrite hull and liability insurance for the Eclipse 500. Insurance broker Willis Global Aviation also announced it would provide preliminary rate projections for future Eclipse 500 operators via e-mail at eclipse500wga@willis.com

Eclipse said the negotiations with the insurance companies had been conducted before–and independent from–the new training arrangements with United. “The insurance agreement was not dependent on establishing a new training program,” he said.