Eclipse Aviation begins production of its landmark Very Light Jet (VLJ)
By Mike Hanlon
March 31, 2006
April 1, 2006 The dream of Eclipse Aviation ‘s Vern Raburn has long been to bring the word "personal" into aviation, by building an affordable very-light jet , enabling commercial air passengers to move directly between cities and allowing pilot owners to enter the world of jet-powered aviation. Earlier this month production commenced on the first of 2350 Eclipse 500 jet that have been ordered with non-refundable deposits – more than US$3 billion worth of orders. Output is booked to 2010, although there are some delivery slots for new orders from the third quarter of 2008. Most significantly, nearly one third of the orders are from owner-pilots - 750 in total. Those who paid their deposit early will score the 375 knot, six occupant jet for just US$1,000,000. Those who want to join the queue now will wait a bit less time for their Eclipse 500 but will pay US$1,295,000. Even at that price, the Eclipse 500 is far cheaper than anything competitive and has the lowest operating cost per mile of any jet. Whatsmore, this extraordinary jet gives you access to more than 10,000 airports in the U.S.
Suitable for six occupants, the Eclipse 500 is a dynamic, new VLJ, developed and engineered by Eclipse Aviation. The corporation expects to acquire FAA (Federation Aviation Administration) Type Certification for the Eclipse 500 in Q2, 2006. The aircraft adopts innovative technology such as friction stir welding and other design innovations that significantly reduce manufacturing cost and allow for high-volume production. By these engineering and design features, unprecedented in the industry, combined with a growing demand for VLJs in the air taxi industry, Eclipse Aviation has obtained more than 2,400 orders for the Eclipse 500.
“The Eclipse 500 order book is the largest in the VLJ segment, and we attribute this to our ability to deliver the industry"s highest-performance jet at a breakthrough price,” said Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation. “This is a great aircraft for everyone from owner operators to high-utilization air-taxi and shared ownership businesses. Linear Air and JetSet Air join the growing community of fleet customers who have selected the Eclipse 500 as the aircraft of choice for fleet operations, including DayJet, Aviace and OurPlane.”
As a crowd of employees gathered to witness the initiation of production, the first customer, David Crowe, stepped up to engage the friction stir welding of one of his future jet’s cockpit side panels and to drill window attachment holes in the cockpit frame.
Vern Raburn, Eclipse Aviation president and CEO, joined Eclipse employees to observe the production start. “This is another very exciting day at Eclipse because this is all part of the process of becoming a successful and enduring company,” said Vern as he watched Mr. Crowe begin the friction stir welding of the cockpit panel. “We couldn’t be happier than to be building this Eclipse 500 for Mr. Crowe – thank you David, we really appreciate your faith and confidence.”
Mr. Crowe will receive his Eclipse 500 this summer. His visit was an incredible boost to the Eclipse team members who had a firsthand opportunity to see his enthusiasm for their efforts. As Mr. Crowe finished drilling the holes on the cockpit, he told the group of Eclipsers watching, “It’s beautiful. It takes some pretty special people to have the dedication to carry through a project like the Eclipse 500. Folks who work here are not just punching timecards – I can feel that every time I visit.”
The company was recently honored for the development of the Eclipse 500 by the National Aeronautic Association, which awarded Eclipse the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy for the “greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.”
Eclipse’s Raburn was also honored by Flight International magazine recently with the Aviation Excellence Awards – Publishers Award as “leading a revolution in private and business aviation.”
An array of videos showing the Eclipse 500 in flight testing can be found here.