MEBAA Convention News

Eclipse 500 makes MEBA debut

 - November 14, 2008, 11:06 PM

Overshadowed by far larger jets in the static display, the Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ) is being shown for the first time at the MEBA show, courtesy of Dubai-based Palm Aviation and MyJet Turkey. The entry-level jet will be staying here in Dubai to make flight demonstrations after the three-day event.

But even before MEBA visitors on the opening day got as far as the diminutive twinjet in the static display, the news that Eclipse Aviation’s financial woes had deepened suggested that this debut display could be its last. Reports on Thursday that the company could not afford to pay their employees’ wage bill of some $2.5 million came on top of a report that it has fallen two months behind on lease payments for its space at Albuquerque’s Sunport facility.

Amid financial restructuring earlier this year, Eclipse laid off some 650 employees but evidently this failed to stem the strain on its bank balance. Indeed, the company has admitted that it needs up to $300 million in new equity investment in order to restructure its operations and reach profitability and the current worldwide credit crunch could not have come at a worse time for it to secure such investment. On Friday, Eclipse issued a statement that it expects to pay employees by Tuesday, though it did not address the lease situation.

Palm Aviation vice president and CEO Samer Dabbagh maintained that there is a lot of interest in VLJs in the Middle East. MyJet Turkey had demonstrated its own commitment to the Eclipse 500 by placing an order for 120 aircraft. According to board member Serder Goksal, the VLJ will revolutionize air transportation in this region.

However, unless bankers and investors can be persuaded to provide sufficient finance to ensure continued production of the aircraft, the outlook does seem bleak. Eclipse Aviation is currently obliged to deliver aircraft previously ordered at a price on which it makes a loss. Moreover, following the September demise of DayJet, the U.S.-based air taxi operator that originally ordered no less than 1,400 of the VLJs, 28 early model Eclipse 500s are being offered for sale “as is,” having accumulated no more than 450 hours each.

Palm Aviation (Stand No. 1000) is supporting MyJet Turkey in its efforts to operate the Eclipse 500 here in the Middle East.