In The Works: Eclipse 500
With all 173 Eclipse Aviation employees now figuratively under one roof at Sunport International Airport in Albuquerque, N.M., the company expects to begin assembly this month of its first flight-test airplane in preparation for the model’s initial flight next July. As planned, this aircraft, like the other four flying airplanes and two static-test airframes planned for the development program, will conform with the production Eclipse 500s to help facilitate certification, scheduled for December 2003. The first customer delivery is planned for January 2004.
Some 126 Eclipse employees had been using offices rented from Williams International in Walled Lake, Mich., while they worked jointly with Williams engineers. In July Eclipse announced it had assumed “all responsibility for completion of the Eclipse 500 aircraft development, assembly and certification program,” whereas earlier Williams was under contract for the design and certification of the airframe and manufacturing facilities. Williams remains the engine supplier for the EJ22-powered Eclipse.
The Eclipse facility in Albuquerque, which the company is renting, comprises five hangars and new office space that Eclipse had built between two of the hangars. Total area is about 100,000 sq ft. The company expects to use this facility for certification work and production for the first few years before moving into a permanent headquarters and manufacturing facility at Double Eagle II Airport on Albuquerque’s west side. Employment at Eclipse is expected to reach 200 by year-end.
As announced in September (AIN, NBAA 2001 Special Edition, page 24), the Nimbus Group, a not-yet-operational air-taxi startup that evolved from a failed dot-com retailer, has committed to an undisclosed equity investment in Eclipse. As part of this agreement, Eclipse will deliver 1,000 airplanes to Nimbus over a five-year period starting in 2004. Eclipse has also sold the 160 positions in its Platinum Program, which required $155,000 deposits. According to a spokesperson, the next available delivery position for a new 500 is in the third quarter of 2006.