For the first time in more than four years, new aircraft have emerged from the former Eclipse Aviation final-assembly facility in Albuquerque, N.M. Two unfinished airframes left on the assembly line when that company declared bankruptcy in November 2008 were recently completed by the resurrected company, Eclipse Aerospace, and outfitted as factory-new Total Eclipse twinjets.
This formation of 27 Eclipse light jets was part of a larger group that descended on Branson Airport in Missouri for the Eclipse Owners Club Fall Fly-In last month. Forty-three of the twinjets met up in what was one of the largest gatherings of the same model private jet ever to land on a field at one time. Eclipse Aviation built 261 of the EA500s before it went bankrupt in 2008. Eclipse Aerospace, which acquired the company’s assets, announced it has restarted production with deliveries of the updated Eclipse 550 expected next year.
PPG Aerospace won a contract to supply cockpit windows for the new Eclipse 550, as well as improved-design windshield spares and side-cockpit window spares to Eclipse Aerospace for the existing Eclipse 500 fleet. The lighter-weight glass-faced acrylic windshields for both aircraft will be heated, meet requirements to resist strike by a two-pound bird at 200 knots and have an anti-static coating. The side-cockpit windows will be acrylic. PPG will start cockpit window deliveries to Eclipse in the middle of next year to coincide with deliveries of the first Eclipse 550s.
It’s been a bit more than three years since Eclipse Aerospace was awarded the assets of bankrupt Eclipse Aviation in August 2009, not quite enough time, perhaps, to fully separate conversations about the former from the mixed record of its predecessor, but Mason Holland, CEO of Eclipse Aerospace, told AIN the company is weary of “Phoenix rising from the ashes” stories and declared it has made considerable progress updating a
Eclipse Aerospace is offering an anti-skid braking system for new and existing Eclipse 500/550s. The lack of anti-skid braking has proved a problem for the airplane, with locked brakes contributing to several blown-tire incidents. The system, which adds approximately 17 pounds to aircraft empty weight, includes brake control and wheel speed sensors, a dedicated control computer and software updates to the avionics. Testing has indicated it is possible to stop the aircraft from normal landing speeds in less than 750 feet using “aggressive” braking.
Last month’s Airex show in Turkey (September 6 to 9) highlighted the country’s emergence as a hub of aviation growth on Europe’s boundary with the increasingly dynamic markets of Asia and the Middle East. Business aviation was a large facet of the event, which was staged on the general aviation apron of Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, reflecting growth being engineered by both foreign and local companies.
Eclipse Aerospace has added an anti-skid braking system as an option for its new-production Eclipse 550s, and it plans to offer it as a retrofit for in-service Eclipse 500s early next year. Eclipse says that in-aircraft testing of the anti-skid braking system is complete and that it expects to begin delivering certified systems by late March. Performance demonstrated during testing has prompted Eclipse to seek to adjust the aircraft flight manual performance numbers for Eclipse 500s and 550s with the improved braking system.
Sales professionals from more than 30 countries who attended the first International Eclipse Dealer and Sales Conference on May 31 may have noticed a not-so-subtle change to the buildings that house Eclipse Aerospace at the Albuquerque, N.M. International Sunport. Before the meeting, Eclipse CEO Mason Holland arranged for bucket loads of blue paint to be delivered to the company’s facilities, and painters quickly erased the bright orange that had been the hallmark of the old Eclipse Aviation and dabbed on the blue that is the color of Eclipse Aerospace.
Eclipse Aerospace released its Quick Reference Application (QRA) for the Apple iPad in February, and since then the adoption rate has penetrated most of the fleet of 259 operational Eclipse 500 very light jets. “More than 80 percent of the entire fleet has at least one iPad they’re using for our app,” said Eclipse Aerospace CEO Mason Holland.
Despite a halt in production of nearly four years and the bankruptcy of its original developer, the fleet of Eclipse very light jets could soon grow again after Eclipse Aerospace was awarded a production certificate from the FAA.