Total Eclipse VLJ May Rise Again in Dubai

 - December 8, 2010, 2:15 AM

Eclipse is back. Here at MEBA Eclipse Aerospace is exhibiting a Total Eclipse twin-engine very light jet modified at EA Aerospace's recently established platinum service center in Istanbul.

The Eclipse 500's original manufacturer, Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque, New Mexico, went into bankruptcy after delivering 270 aircraft, and with a deposits-paid order book standing at 1,365. Of local interest here in Dubai, the Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Flight Academy had ordered 12 Eclipse 500s before Eclipse Aviaiton went out of business.

A new company, Eclipse Aerospace, with Turkey's EA Aerospace as a major shareholder, has taken over the program and has embarked on an aggressive three-part strategy to put the Eclipse back on the map.

"Our first priority was getting the existing fleet to fly with what the customer deserves," said K. Ekim Alptekin, chairman of EA Aerospace and vice president of Eclipse Aerospace. To that end the company created a new package, Total Eclipse, which was launched in March. This is a factory refit program that brings the original Eclipse 500 up to the capabilities that were promised by the original manufacturer. They include a 20,000-cycle airframe, color radar, electronic moving map, Jeppesen eCharts, GPS-coupled autopilot, FIKI (flight into known icing) capability and a 41,000-foot ceiling.

Following the reinstatement of the FAA type certificate, Eclipse airplanes were restricted by an airworthiness directive to a 37,000-foot ceiling, but Eclipse Aerospace has been working on engineering changes to allow the full ceiling to be certified, and they are currently under test. A new carbon windshield strip has also been developed and certified for the dissipation of precipitation static.

In October, Eclipse Aerospace announced that a new integrated flight management system was available for the Total Eclipse. Known as AvioNG, the integrated FMS is provided by Innovative Solutions and Support (IS&S) and offers a wide range of planning, navigation and meteorological functions with advanced graphics on IS&S-supplied screens.

Total Eclipse modification work is being undertaken at three service platinum locations: Albuquerque and Chicago, Illinois, in the U.S., and the facility in Turkey. To date nearly half of the 270-aircraft fleet has been upgraded. Several gold service locations have also been established as part of Eclipse's second strategic goal, to establish a fully global support organization.

That aim has recently been enhanced through an agreement in principle with Sikorsky, which is finalizing the details of taking equity in Eclipse, a process due to complete around the turn of the year. For Sikorsky the deal represents an opportunity to get into the fixed-wing world, while for Eclipse it provides further weight to the support infrastructure. "Sikorsky has certain leverages that we can plug into, such as a global supply chain" Alptekin told