With the Falcon 7X, French-based manufacturer Dassault has cut in half the time it takes it to build the first example of a new top-end business jet. The company is using digital design and construction tools to streamline the assembly process. At the same time, lower development and production costs have a favorable effect on the price of the 5,700-nm trijet, Dassault claims.
Call them what you want–very light jets (VLJs), compact jets, minijets, microjets, personal jets or even Barbie jets–they’re no longer “paper” airplanes. First deliveries of certified VLJs are less than a year away, if Eclipse Aviation adheres to its plan to begin deliveries of its Model 500 next March.
OK, first about the photo. We promise this will be the last time we’ll show the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and the Wright Flyer in the pages of AIN, at least until 2103. But we just couldn’t resist running a photo of an airworthy Wright airplane reproduction next to a business jet, albeit a mockup.
Westlake Village, Calif.-based Jet Alliance claims to be the first company to offer fractional shares in the Eclipse 500 very light jet. “The technology used to build this aircraft allows us to offer shares at an incredible value,” said v-p Craig Arnold. A one-sixteenth share costs $75,500, with $1,250 per month maintenance charge and $650 per occupied hour fee.
Keeping its promise, Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse Aviation flew the first Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F-powered Eclipse 500 certification flight-test aircraft at 10:16 a.m. MST on December 31. The milestone marked the beginning of a 15-month testing program that will involve seven test airframes and culminate with planned FAA certification in March next year.
Delivery of the first Eclipse 500 very light jet happened on either Dec. 31, 2006, or Jan. 4, 2007, depending on how you count. Eclipse Aviation received its first certificate of airworthiness from the FAA on the last day of 2006 and announced that it had delivered its first airplane by the end of the year to co-owners David Crowe and fractional share/management firm Jet-Alliance. But it held a formal delivery ceremony on January 4.
After an extended gestation period and months of uncertainty about first delivery, Eclipse Aviation delivered its first production very light jet (VLJ). When the FAA awarded an airworthiness certificate for the first production Eclipse 500 in the closing hours of last year the Albuquerque, N.M.-based tyro airframe manufacturer immediately initiated a virtual “delivery” in which the co-owners completed the documents via fax.
Despite delays, which as of publication have seen only one of the new Eclipse 500 VLJs delivered, a niche market is doing business in sales of position numbers. According to one aircraft broker, around 100 of the airplanes have changed hands at a profit of $150,000 to $500,000 depending on how low the serial number is. Michael Press, president and CEO of Single Pilot Jet Management in St.
Scottsdale Ariz.-based fractional operator JetsAmerica is scheduled to take delivery of its first Eclipse 500 by the middle of next month, according to company chairman and CEO Brandon Carlson. The company offers quarter-share turnkey ownership in the new very light jet. A one-quarter share will equal 200 hours of real flight time; Carlson says owners won’t be penalized for taxiing or empty repositioning flights.
Pogo, a planned very light jet (VLJ) air-taxi operation launched in 2004 by former American Airlines chairman and CEO Robert Crandall, moved its schedule forward by one year and now expects to launch in June next year instead of in June 2009, likely using the Eclipse 500. A company official told AIN that Pogo has launched another funding search, this one to raise $35 million.