September 26, 2013
Eclipse Aerospace is close to achieving the third of three business objectives set when it acquired the assets of bankrupt Eclipse Aviation – resuming deliveries of the very-light jet, last produced in 2008.
The first goal set when the “new” Eclipse opened for business in September 2009 was to restore service and support for the 260 EA500s built by the “old” Eclipse. The second was to complete development of the aircraft and field the upgrades to existing operators.
“Third was to return to production,” says CEO Mason Holland. “Those goals have been our focus for the past four years. We thought we would get production going by the end of 2012, and we could have done it, but the market did not come back as quickly as we expected.”
Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse expects to complete its third goal “in the next month or two,” before the end of 2013, by beginning deliveries of new-production EA550s, which incorporate a number of additional improvements beyond the upgraded EA500s in service.
These include a “new panel” from Integrated Solutions & Support, with improved processors and increased redundancy in the primary-flight and multi-function displays (PFD and MFD) and integrated flight management system (FMS).
On the EA500, the FMS is housed in the MFD. In the 550, the FMS database is housed redundantly in the PFDs, but still displays on the MFD. In the event the MFD fails, the FMS can be presented on either of the two PFDs, increasing redundancy.
Eclipse is planning to build aircraft at a rate of 2-2.5 per month, ending 2014 “closer to 3 a month,” says Holland. “That’s what the market is saying demand is, and we are selling to that rate. We are building a bit more than demand to meet expectations through 2014.”
PZL Mielec in Poland, which is owned by Sikorsky, is producing fuselages and tails, but Eclipse has enough wings in inventory to see it through 2014 and into 2015, he says. The wing was made by Fuji in Japan, but Eclipse bought back the tooling and inventory.
A decision on where wings will be produced in the longer term has yet to be made. “At low production rates it is easy to do the wing at Albuquerque. At higher rates PZL makes sense. We are going back and forth on that, educating both sides,” he says.