Eclipse Aerospace has arrived with an aircraft on static display for the first time at EBACE. The manufacturer is represented by its official European distributor, UK-based Aeris Aviation (based at Branscombe Airfield in Devon), which is offering demo flights in the Eclipse 500 very light jet during the show.
The Eclipse 500 and the new 550, due out later this year, “can travel safely above the weather at speeds of up to 375 knots and fuel consumption as low as 59 gallons per hour,” said David Hayman, pilot and CEO of Aeris Aviation. “I am a Cirrus pilot. This airplane ticks all my boxes and it is a very simple transition from something like a Cirrus, with the EFIS and sidestick. The thing about the Eclipse jet is that so much is done for you automatically, the fuel, pressurization and calculating landing speeds.”
Aeris Aviation was formed about nine months ago and was selected by Eclipse Aerospace (Booth 1365) to be its exclusive European distributor. It acquired the model 500 on static display in December 2012, and has been demonstrating it for sale ever since. The company has a three-pronged strategy for sales in the currently challenging European marketplace for very light jets, according to Hayman.
“There is of course the owner/operator market, which is a big market for the Eclipse in the U.S. That said, I believe the bulk of our sales in Europe will be to business owners who do not fly and require management (the company will provide both pilot and concierge maintenance services for these clients). Then we will initiate a shared ownership program,” said Hayman. “I think this will be very popular. I believe we can sell partnerships for roughly $750,000 for 90 days use a year,” he continued. Hayman expects the sales campaign to launch in the next four to six weeks.
In the meantime, the littlest jet at EBACE sits in a prime position on the ramp, right by the steps up to Hall 7, and is garnering plenty of attention. The new 550 model will sell for less than $3 million, while refurbished Total Eclipse 500s with updated avionics are available for even less. “People keep saying to me, who is the competition?” said Hayman, casting his gaze across the ramp. “The Eclipse is a niche product, with nothing quite like it. We know from Eurocontrol statistics that 80 percent of all business flights in Europe have less than four passengers and are for under two hours duration. Fuel is 22 percent of cost and we are extremely economical. We weigh less than 5,000 kilograms and so we do not have the mandatory handling fees at most airports. And we operate out of Dunkeswell [airfield], in England, with less than 1,000 meters of runway easily. We can take the businessman from the smaller fields where there are fewer fees to the smaller field that is much closer to his operations and save him money.”
When asked if he thought the stigma of Eclipse’s earlier troubles are tainting sales, Hayman replied, “Today Eclipse Aerospace is strong, with 42 percent ownership by Sikorsky. The pricing is correct now and the airplane has thousands of hours of safe operation. The avionics suite works, and it is a quiet, quick, efficient twin jet at an attractive price point, in my mind.”
The price and the reality of those short flights that dominate the European business aviation experience buoy Hayman's confidence that he can sell Eclipses in Europe. “With the European economic crisis dragging on, it is only a matter of time before some of these CEOs are going to have to answer the question, why are you using such an expensive, large aircraft for these short trips with so few people onboard?” Hayman queried. “The CEO flying an Eclipse is going to come out looking quite good when that question is asked.”