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.
Significant fleet orders were announced today for the Eclipse 500, Citation and Avanti at NBAA 2005. Linear Air of Lexington, Mass., and JetSet Air of the UK have placed firm orders for 15 and 30 Eclipse 500 very light jets, respectively. These transactions bring the Eclipse order book to 2,350 airplanes (1,592 firm orders and 765 options), all secured with nonrefundable deposits, the company said.
An ongoing “supplier problem” is casting a shadow over Eclipse Aviation’s receipt of its first type inspection authorization (TIA) from the FAA earlier this month. The TIA authorizes agency personnel to begin performing onboard aircraft testing of the Eclipse 500 for certification credit. But the supplier problem–which sources say is related to the avionics system–could delay the March certification target for Eclipse’s very light jet.
Cessna, Eclipse and Adam Aircraft are all confident that their respective very light jets will be certified this year. According to Cessna chairman, president and CEO Jack Pelton, the Citation Mustang is on track for FAA approval in the fall, though he hinted that the VLJ could get its papers a little earlier.
Building a new engine is a huge gamble, but if the timing is right the payoff can be enormous. For Pratt & Whitney Canada, offering the PW600 series to aircraft manufacturers in the early 2000s turned out to be a smart move. Three manufacturers chose the PW600 for their respective very light jet programs–the Cessna Mustang (PW615F), Eclipse 500 (PW610F) and Embraer Phenom 100 (PW617F).
For this year’s look in the crystal ball, AIN added a number of aircraft to the list to reflect ongoing programs more accurately. While many of these aircraft are derivative and not original certifications, they are still new and deserve to be counted.