Eclipse Aerospace announced Oct. 10 at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas that it is taking orders for the Eclipse 550 twin-jet with first deliveries scheduled to begin in 2013.
The 550 is a derivative of the Eclipse 500, which was certified in 2006. However, only about 260 of the aircraft were delivered before the manufacturer, Eclipse Aviation, filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2008. Eventually liquidated, the assets were purchased in August 2009 by a group of owners headed by entrepreneur Mason Holland, who serves as the CEO and chairman of the new company, Eclipse Aerospace.
Eclipse Aerospace has been refurbishing and upgrading the existing fleet since its inception. Last year at the NBAA convention, the company announced that Sikorsky Aircraft had bought a minority share of the company and planned to provide its expertise in supply chain management and disciplined processes to improve productivity.
The latest announcement leverages Sikorsky’s expertise and assets further through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will have the major subassemblies of the 550 built in a Sikorsky-owned plant in Mielec, Poland. There, PZL Mielec, a Sikorsky company, builds Blackhawk helicopters and various aircraft of Polish design.
Under the MOU, Sikorsky will build the wings, empennage, and fuselage in Mielec. Those components will be shipped to the Eclipse plant in Albuquerque, N.M., for final assembly. Under the original company, the wings were built in Japan, the empennage in Dallas, and the fuselage in Albuquerque.
Eclipse Aerospace co-founder Mike Press expects about the first 30 aircraft to be built in Albuquerque while Polish workers learn the processes. At that point, the innovative friction-stir-welding equipment and other production gear will be shipped to Mielec for continued manufacturing.
Holland reported that about 85 percent of the suppliers for the new airplane are under contract; all of them were suppliers to the original company.
The 550 differs from the original 500 through upgraded systems, including autothrottles, which were originally envisioned for the 500 but never implemented. Other enhancements include upgrades to the Innovative Solutions & Support cockpit system, including synthetic and enhanced vision.
Holland said the company expects to produce between 50 and 100 airplanes annually once production stabilizes. Base price for the new airplanes is set at $2.7 million. A limited number of introductory position holders will receive a contract without CPI escalation clauses and will be eligible for some $120,000 in optional equipment for no extra cost.