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.
Very light jets
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.
In preparation for introducing its A700 very light twinjet late next year, Adam Aircraft has teamed up with Chicago-based JSSI to offer owners an hourly maintenance plan.
At a ceremony today, Embraer president and CEO Mauricio Botehlo and senior vice president Luis Carlos Affonso pulled the wraps off full-scale mockups of the company’s very light and light jets to reveal their names–the Phenom 100 and 300, respectively. Yesterday, Embraer disclosed it had selected the Garmin G1000 integrated avionics system for the airplanes, both of which will be certified for single-pilot operations.
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.
Embraer is extending the $2.75 million introductory price to May 31 for the Phenom 100, its offering in the growing very light jet segment. The price of the eight-seat, 1,160-nm (four occupants) Phenom 100 increases to $2.85 million on June 1. First flight is scheduled for the first quarter of next year, with entry into service expected in mid-2008.