Despite an active first quarter in the light jet market, the remainder of the year has proven to be a sobering reminder that the world continues to recover from the financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009. This is not surprising, considering that the light jet market tends to react directly to the general economy as measured by stock market indices.
Eclipse Aerospace (Booth No. 6667) has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes of the bankruptcy of the original Eclipse Aviation, with a focus on helping the owners of the 260 Eclipse 500s keep their airplanes flying safely and efficiently and a goal of eventually restarting the EA500 production line.
This AIN pilot/reporter had an opportunity to fly the Eclipse on two different occasions, once on a short cross-country trip in March between Chicago and Nashville and again to Rockford, Ill., for some approaches, landings
and airwork. My instructor pilot was North American Jet Eclipse instructor Mike Vautell.
I’ve been waiting quite some time to fly the Eclipse, a dozen years in fact, since the then revolutionary very light jet (VLJ) was first announced in 1998. The term very light jet–originally coined to describe the Eclipse specifically–came to be applied to a number of small jets, although a precise definition seemed to depend upon an aircraft manufacturer’s marketing department at any given time.
Since buying the assets of bankrupt Eclipse Aviation last year, Eclipse Aerospace has resumed all the modification programs necessary to bring the EA500 very light jet to its latest airframe and avionics configurations and launched campaigns to fix continuing problems. The most recent is a windshield modification that helps dissipate precipitation static.
In a forum at this year’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., Eclipse Aerospace chairman and president Mason Holland pulled no punches with the crowd of some 40 owners who’d gathered to hear the latest details about the company and its progress to complete the list of items necessary to upgrade every Eclipse 500 to Version 1.7. “This airplane has been the soap opera of aviation for the past 10 years,” said Holland.
Despite the littered road of failed very light jet air-taxi firms, Linear Air said it has been able to make the model work and has even eked out a profit during one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. The Concord, Mass.-based company said its revenues in the first half increased to nearly $1 million with its four Eclipse 500s, doubling the results from the first half of last year.
Boca Aircraft Maintenance (BAM) celebrated its first anniversary in June. The FAA Part 145 repair station is also EASA certified and has Eclipse authorization for work and parts distribution in the southeast.
A proposed Airworthiness Directive for Eclipse 500s would require changes to the electronic flight information system and the airplane flight manuals. The proposed
AD stems from reports of uncommanded changes to the communications radio frequency, altitude preselect and/or transponder codes. The FAA said the AD would “correct faulty integration of hardware and software” on Eclipses.
Eclipse Aerospace has named VNE Jet of Henderson, Nev., the exclusive U.S. Southwest region factory-authorized gold service center for the Eclipse 500.