May 15, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
Eclipse Aerospace has signed an agreement with PZL Mielec, the Polish company purchased by Sikorsky in March 2007, to produce the wings, empennage, fuselage, and related systems such as fuel probes for the Eclipse 550 personal jet. First deliveries are promised for 2013.
The components will be assembled at the Eclipse plant in Albuquerque. PZL Mielec manufactures the S-70i Black Hawk helicopter for Sikorsky, in addition to its own models such as the M-28 Skytruck, a utility aircraft similar to the Beechcraft King Air.
“The signing of the PZL Eclipse 550 airframe contract is another major milestone in our production path,” said Mason Holland, CEO of Eclipse Aerospace. “Utilizing the world class facilities of PZL Mielec in the production of our airframe components is huge for Eclipse. Their proven facilities and experience will further accelerate our efforts while reducing production startup risk."
Prior to the present ownership, Eclipse had difficulties, not to mention lawsuits, over the failure of components from various manufacturers to mate correctly. Now, all the components will be made by one company, eliminating those earlier problems.
The new agreement seems to contradict recent statements by United Technologies Chief Financial Officer Greg Hays that his company, the parent firm of Sikorsky, is “… not in the light jet business.” Sikorsky took a minor ownership stake in Eclipse and will handle support for the present fleet of Eclipse aircraft.
The Eclipse 550 will use the same airframe as the Eclipse 500. However, the 550 model will include synthetic vision, autothrottles, and enhanced vision. It will have the same 1,125 nautical mile range, 375 knots true airspeed max cruise speed, and 41,000 foot service ceiling as its predecessor, and will burn 59 gallons per hour at cruise power.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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