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.
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.
Eclipse Aviation has chosen Albany International Airport as the site for its new northeast factory service center. The company plans to have seven domestic factory service centers and has previously nounced locations in Albuquerque, N.M., and Gainesville, Fla.
The prospect of marginally qualified pilots hurtling through the rarefied atmosphere of the flight levels in very light jets and promoting fear and loathing in the heavy-metal professionals–which is how some people view the imminent advent of the “Volksjet” era–has been a topic of lively debate of late, and no surprise to Eclipse Aviation founder, president and CEO Vern Raburn.
Eclipse Aviation’s fourth conforming flight-test aircraft, N505EA, which made a gear-up landing on September 4 at Albuquerque International Sunport, will be repaired and back in the air by the end of this month, according to a company spokesman. The two pilots on board were not injured during the accident, and Eclipse said the cause of the belly landing was pilot error.
Albuquerque, N.M.-based start-up manufacturer Eclipse Aviation said its six-month-old JetMatch program has “more than exceeded our expectations.” JetMatch “facilitates partnerships” in new Eclipse 500s via a password-protected message board on the company’s Web site. An Eclipse spokesman said the service has thus far resulted in two matches for the $1.295 million VLJ.
According to the National Business Travel Association, U.S. businesses spend $29 billion a year for approximately 65 million trips on the airlines. But with airlines reducing flights from non-hub airports by 19 percent last year, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for some employees to get from Point A to B using the airlines.
With very light jets (VLJs) expected to enter service by this time next year, turboprop singles are now meeting the contender face-to-face in the marketplace. It was bound to happen, given that the two different classes of airplane have similar range capabilities, cabin volume and acquisition costs.
Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque, N.M., increased the price of its Eclipse 500 very light twinjet to $1.295 million (in 2000 dollars), a jump of $120,000 over the previous tag. The new price is still less than that of any of the other very light twinjets under development.