Eclipse Aerospace CEO Mason Holland said the company is currently building two refurbished Total Eclipse jets a month and still hopes to eventually start up a new aircraft production line. “We’ve got pretty good throughput now,” he said, adding that the company’s top priority is supporting the 260 aircraft that came off the production line at the original Eclipse Aviation before it cratered into bankruptcy in 2008. Holland credited the substantial minority investment Sikorsky made in the new Eclipse Aerospace last year in enabling it to better serve customer needs.
Holland said the investment went beyond just money and managing the company’s supply chain. “The Sikorsky partnership is a lot deeper than just a supply chain contract and minority interest. They have a major investment financially and a major commitment to the company with their team. This includes our board of directors. Four prominent [executive]-level Sikorsky leaders are on our board and they take the time to attend our board meetings every six weeks. They are putting time and money behind the advancement of Eclipse.”
Sikorsky executives on the Eclipse board include Shane Eddy, vice president of global supply chain; Samir Mehta, vice president of Sikorsky Aerospace Services; Carey Bond, president of Sikorsky Global Helicopters; and Ed Beyer, vice president of Sikorsky Global Helicopters.
“We can lever anything Sikorsky has to make Eclipse stronger and better,” Holland said, adding that he sees that eventually including Sikorsky unit Derco Aerospace, a worldwide logistics and parts company. Derco currently supports military and commercial fleets in more than 65 countries. “We anticipate digging into Derco as time goes on,” Holland said.
For now, Eclipse Aerospace (Booth No. C12012b) is structured with headquarters in Charleston, S.C. The main manufacturing plant and engineering and service center remains in Albuquerque, N.M., with additional service centers at Chicago Executive Airport; Boca Raton, Fla.; and Istanbul, Turkey. Ekim Alptekin, chairman of Turkey’s EA Aerospace, is also Eclipse Aerospace executive vice president, Europe.
Albuquerque and Chicago employ more than 30 service technicians each and there are also additional engineering personnel at the Chicago facility.
Reaching Out To Customers
Holland said Eclipse continues to aggressively reach out to customers of the original 260 aircraft who basically took delivery of jets that were incomplete and who were left holding the bag for promised upgrades and improvements when Eclipse Aviation filed for bankruptcy. Holland himself lost a $1 million deposit on a new Eclipse when the old company folded. “Our roadmap is heavily influenced by what the pilot wants to see in his panel and what the guy sitting in back [and writing the checks] wants,” Holland said, noting that the current ownership mix is divided approximately evenly between owner-pilots and non-pilot owners.
“We reach out to our customers regularly,” he said. “We have lists of customers we want to see and we have delivered lots to them over the last 20 months because of customer input.” Accomplishments of the new company include entering into a training agreement with SimCom, establishing the current service centers, providing an enhanced windshield and numerous avionics upgrades including for the Avio integrated flight management system (IFMS) by Innovative Solutions & Support, flight-into-known-icing approval, instituting an aircraft insurance program, obtaining FAA approval for return to flight at 41,000 feet and launch of the Total Eclipse aircraft re-manufacturing program.
Eclipse also re-established an onboard Iridium link that allows the aircraft to pass real time engine data directly to Pratt & Whitney Canada. Holland said as part of that capability the company has set up dedicated servers and provisioned the aircraft for an optional satphone.
For $2.15 million customers receive a completely remanufactured aircraft with new paint, new interior, the Avio IFMS, a complete factory warranty, enrollment in an engine service plan and replacement of what Holland called “infant mortality parts.”
“Once an aircraft is out in the field and I have to replace a part under warranty, it costs me exponentially more,” Holland said. “We are forcing ourselves as a company to deliver better and more complete products. We are much more about delivering than promising to people. We are sort of a diamond in the rough.”