Eclipse Aviation received FAA type certification for the Eclipse 500 on September 30, becoming the second very light jet manufacturer to achieve the milestone approval behind Cessna, which had the card for its Citation Mustang VLJ punched a few weeks earlier.
On December 11 the first Eclipse 500 certification flight-test aircraft, N503EA, rolled out from the start-up manufacturer’s Albuquerque, N.M. facility. Though the very light jet emerged from the plant with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofan engines, one was a “flight on ground” engine that was swapped out about a week later with an airworthy powerplant before the first flight, which was “imminent” as of December 22.
If company marketing executives have their way, expect a flurry of announcements from autopilot maker Meggitt/S-Tec in the coming months. Representatives from the Mineral Wells, Texas company’s engineering, marketing and production departments met last month to put the final touches on plans for a new line of digital automatic flight control systems targeted at the lower echelons of business aviation.
Pilots checking out the flight deck of the Eclipse 500 may notice something missing. The very light jet has no traditional standby instruments. That’s because they’re incorporated into the machine’s 15-inch multifunction display, which itself sits between the left and right PFDs. The standby data–airspeed, attitude, altitude and heading–appear on a compact four-inch square display, replicating the larger PFDs.
The Eclipse 500 program continued to gain steam last month with the successful first flights of the second (N502EA) and third (N504EA) certification flight-test aircraft. They join N503EA, the first Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F-powered Eclipse 500, which has been flying since December 31.
Eclipse Aviation is now putting the finishing touches on its very light jet (VLJ) pilot training program. Planned in coordination with the United Services division of United Airlines, the program will bring a different philosophy and a marked change of emphasis to bear on flight training as we have known it in the past.
It’s all too easy for industry analysts to say that if the air-limo concept–point-to-point service for the masses–is possible, someone would already have done it. Perhaps they’re missing the bigger picture, which is that all of the ingredients to create a viable air limo aren’t yet available.
Ed Iacobucci, founder and former chairman of software maker Citrix Systems, on April 25 announced his latest project–regional, per-seat, on-demand air-limo service using Eclipse 500s. His company, DayJet, has placed a firm order for 239 Eclipse 500s and taken options for 70 more and plans to start service with the very light jets by the middle of next year. Iacobucci hopes to transform regional business travel in the U.S.
As demand for commercial air travel increases in India, business aviation entrepreneurs are clamoring for position in a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Those who will be successful must make an early entry into the market, but they are severely limited in their ability to operate because the infrastructure to support general aviation is still being developed.
Market surveys have guided industry sages for decades, and Honeywell’s and Rolls-Royce’s prog- nostications this year certainly told business aviation what it wants to hear. Both outlooks bear good news. Though the two reports do not agree in all aspects and use some significantly different parameters, the overall message is uniform: look for strong performance in the business aviation sector for the next decade or two.