Other than seeing a ramp full of stored ex-DayJet Eclipse aircraft in 2008 after the collapse of the Florida-based air-taxi firm, it’s rare now to sight more than a couple of the type together at an airport–unless you happen to pass through Henderson Executive Airport near Las Vegas, Nev.
The trials and tribulations of the Eclipse VLJ have been well documented, from the end of production in 2008 through the company folding and leaving owners of the 259 compact twinjets built wondering how to keep their aircraft flying.
Eclipse Aero Solutions was founded in February 2009 in Albuquerque, N.M., to assist owners with maintaining their aircraft. However, the company soon decided to relocate and settled at Henderson Executive Airport, opening its doors once again in June 2010 as VNE Jet.
The change of location would help serve the large core of Eclipse 500 owners on the Western side of the U.S., according to VNE Jet president Scott Bullock. He also hinted that the combination of the Eclipse name and the Albuquerque location–home to the defunct Eclipse–did not inspire confidence from the owners.
“In just a short time we have become a major force in Eclipse maintenance and management, and anyone who owns or operates an Eclipse now knows about us. It’s pretty much down to recommendations and word of mouth,” Scott told AIN.
Unlike aircraft such as Learjets and Citations, which have been produced in large numbers, the fleet of 259 Eclipses is a relatively small world, so news travels quickly in such a tight-knit community.
“We just haven’t found the need to advertise or display at functions like the popular NBAA Convention yet. It seems people who need to know already know where we are,” Scott told AIN. “Obviously we can’t be too complacent and would welcome any new customers who may be interested in the Eclipse services we offer, whether that be general maintenance, major/minor repairs, engine borescope and replacements, varying 24-, 36- and 48-month inspections [all of which require a complete airframe tear-down, inspection, build-up and systems checks], airworthiness directives and pre-purchase inspections, to name but a few of our services.”
VNE Jet is working with the FAA to get its Part 145 certificate, and it hopes to have it sometime this month.
The company recently opened an 8,000-sq-ft “Fly-In” facility at Denton, Texas, where technical and maintenance help is on hand. The location a few miles north of D/FW Airport is ideal for owners in the South, said Scott. “It saves them time and operating costs instead of flying all the way to Vegas, especially for the many Florida-based aircraft and for those who are on a tight budget.”
Beyond MRO Service
VNE Jet can also help customers with their purchase of an Eclipse. Technicians will meet the customer at the aircraft location or at VNE Jet in Henderson or Denton and go through the complete maintenance history of that aircraft and produce a status report, along with a thorough inspection of the aircraft and engines to make sure all systems are working correctly.
The company also offers aircraft maintenance management, an element that can be overlooked easily and then become a costly last-minute problem. VNE Jet will offer this service on a yearly basis, initially reviewing a customer’s maintenance history and building a database against it to produce a report showing any services due or problems that can be expected to occur. This also alerts the owner to potential surprises and avoids unwanted downtime when the aircraft is needed most.
When AIN was at Henderson, there were nearly a dozen Eclipses in for attention, some being fueled for departure while others were in various stages of heavy or light maintenance. “We have approximately a dozen employees here at VNE Jet, and among those are our highly trained technicians who know the Eclipse airframe inside out. In fact, we have some just about to leave for Amsterdam to service an aircraft there. At present it seems we send a technician to a far-flung part of the world about half a dozen times a year. There is nowhere where we won’t go to help an owner in need.”
As for expansion plans, Scott explained, “With Eclipse production about to continue we look forward to helping these new and prospective owners of the Eclipse 550 and Total Eclipse. It’s wonderful news that this aircraft will once again find itself in production, and I’m sure it will benefit us as well.” The company also wants to expand to cater to people with Learjets, Phenoms and other VLJs.