Dubai Air Show

Dubai Debutant: Eclipse 500

 - November 13, 2007, 4:29 AM

 Dubai Aerospace Enterprise is considering buying Eclipse 500s very light jets (VLJs) for its new flight academy, a deal that might reach fruition during the airshow. The appearance of the diminutive twinjet here marks not only its own Dubai debut, but the first showing of any certified VLJ in the Middle East.

The 500 here arrived in Dubai on Sunday evening, missing the opening day of the show. At about 4 p.m. that day, an Eclipse spokesman said he knew only that the airplane had left Milan, Italy, at 6 a.m. and was somewhere en route, waiting for a slot to get into Dubai sometime that evening. It did arrive, but authorities wouldn’t allow it to move to the show static display until mid-morning yesterday.

The aircraft, tail number N500UK, is the 51st off the Eclipse assembly line and is destined for a UK customer. It made the journey from the company’s headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, across the North Atlantic via Goose Bay, Newfoundland; Narsarsuaq, Greenland; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Scotland, then went south via Milan, Italy and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Dubai. Neither of its two pilots–one the director of Eclipse flight operations–was immediately available to provide more details of the flight. A spokesperson said the airplane had no maintenance issues.

Eclipse Aviation is well into its first year of volume deliveries of the 500. A total of 49 ships had rolled off the production line by the end of the third quarter and the company expects to exceed the third quarter’s production rate of 27 in the fourth quarter. Though the first of the wave of VLJs announced, the 500 wasn’t the first to get full certification, which it received last September. It subsequently gained certification for several improvements to the original design, including an increase in mtow from 5,760 pounds to 5,995 pounds. Eclipse’s next step is to certify the Avio NG avionics system, expected this month. Eclipse reports orders for some 2,600 aircraft.

In August, Eclipse auctioned aircraft serial 000038 on Ebay. Morton Wagner, a 35-year-old Danish Internet entrepreneur and SR22 owner, won the five-seat jet with a bid of $1,833,945. On October 3, Eclipse 500 charter operator DayJet signaled the start of VLJ per-seat, air-taxi flights when it held its official opening at the Tallahassee Regional Airport, in Florida.

The Eclipse 500 has a max speed of 370 knots and a max operating altitude of 41,000 feet. It lists for $1.6 million.