Newsmakers 2009: Eclipse Aerospace rises from the ashes of Eclipse Aviation

 - December 28, 2009, 9:46 AM

The prognosticators may claim that the very light jet era is over, but the investors who paid $40 million (half in cash up front) for the assets of bankrupt Eclipse Aviation think otherwise. The new Eclipse Aerospace, headquartered at Eclipse’s original Albuquerque (N.M.) International Airport facility, is busy refurbishing, upgrading and selling used Eclipse EA-500s and providing parts and support for the fleet, which numbers about 260 of the diminutive twin-engine jets.

Mason Holland, a deposit-holder who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when Eclipse went bankrupt early last year , partnered with Michael Press, an EA-500 owner and reseller of Eclipse positions and jets, to form Eclipse Aerospace and bid on the assets. Although Holland and Press won’t identify the investors who funded Eclipse Aerospace, Alfred Mann, an early backer of Eclipse Aviation founder Vern Raburn, is believed to be part of the investor team.

The many investors who helped fund Eclipse Aviation spent roughly $1.3 billion on the program before it went bankrupt. Hundreds of deposit-holders received no compensation for their orders, and many vendors were left unpaid for parts they manufactured and services they provided for Eclipse Aviation.

As part of the resurrection of the Eclipse brand, Eclipse Aerospace bought a maintenance provider in Chicago, and that is now the company’s primary service center. The Chicago facility is capable of upgrading those early EA-500s that still had not been modified with the larger tip tanks and aerodynamic improvements
as well as flight-into-known-icing and AvioNG 1.5 avionics upgrades. Eclipse Aerospace also reopened the service center at Albuquerque. The company is planning to restart simulator training, too, and recently signed an agreement with Global Jet Services, the company that held the previous contract with Eclipse Aviation, to provide maintenance training.

Refurbished EA-500s are now available, and the Eclipse Aerospace Web site listed 10 in early December, ranging from S/N 5 through 214 and with various levels of equipment. Number 5 had 112 hours logged, and number 214 just 65 hours total time. The fleet available for resale will include 28 former DayJet EA-500s that eventually were repatriated to Eclipse Aerospace following DayJet’s own bankruptcy.

While VLJ air-taxi companies have yet to prove themselves in the market, the airplane itself remains a legitimate market segment, albeit not to the tune of the 2,500 or more orders that Raburn once claimed to have on Eclipse Aviation’s books.