In a surprise announcement here yesterday, Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky Aircraft (Booth No. 1526) said that it had reached an agreement "in principle" to make a substantial minority investment in Eclipse Aerospace (Booth No. 6667).
Executives from both companies provided few specifics about the deal, including its value. "This agreement in principle affords us an opportunity to invest in a great product and to further leverage our strong aftermarket and product support capabilities for fixed-wing applications," said Sikorsky vice president Mark Cherry.
Eclipse CEO Mason Holland told AIN that the investment would not be used to restart serial production of the company's EA-500 very light jet, although that remains the company's eventual goal.
"The money will be used for ongoing development as we move toward production," Holland said. "We are producing the airplane; we just haven't committed to when. The market is not ready yet. Right now we are refining it and Sikorsky is going to help us with the supply chain."
Holland explained that the Sikorsky investment guaranteed Eclipse's success, but he could not yet provide specific details on which Sikorsky arm would handle Eclipse parts and logistics.
Dave Powell, Sikorsky vice president of sales, declined to say if Sikorsky planned to strike a deal for parts production for Sikorsky products by Eclipse. "Right now [the deal] provides an opportunity for us to invest in the aircraft. It's a great product." He added that Eclipse "will have access to our supply chain."
Sikorsky Aircraft has been engaged in the acquisition of minority shares in small, innovative companies over the last few years as a way to increase the capacity of its research and development efforts.