Two relative newcomers to aviation have come together to form ONE—ONE Aviation, that is. Eclipse Aerospace and Kestrel Aircraft are merging to create the new company, to be led by aviation innovator Alan Klapmeier. Klapmeier, a co-founder of Cirrus Aircraft, is the new CEO of ONE Aviation Corp., which will produce the Eclipse 550 twin jet and continue development of the Kestrel K350 single-engine turboprop. Klapmeier is the former CEO of Kestrel Aircraft.
“Combining the synergies of Eclipse and Kestrel under the leader of Alan Klapmeier is a perfect fit,” said Mason Holland, chairman of ONE Aviation and the former CEO of Eclipse Aerospace, the maker of the 550. Holland describes Klapmeier as “an innovator and transformational leader.”
The deal was announced April 15 at AERO 2015 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, where Eclipse is an exhibitor. Klapmeier told AOPA that his vision includes infusing efficiencies into the companies by merging their business operations, supply chains, and marketing and sales teams. He believes his experience at Cirrus and Kestrel will allow him to continue to bring improvements to the 550. In addition, the success of the jet will help sustain his ongoing efforts to convince investors to join him in further development of the all-composite K350 turboprop, which has languished in recent years because of a lack of funding. Klapmeier bought the Kestrel project from Farnborough Aircraft in 2010. His design and engineering team have made significant airframe, interior, and panel changes to the design and announced that it will be powered by a Honeywell TPE331-14 engine flat rated to about 1,000 shaft horsepower. Klapmeier has never set a certification date for the project, as he sought funding from a variety of sources.
Eclipse Aviation too has struggled in the past. Conceived by Vern Raburn, the all-aluminum light jet was planned to be powered by Williams International engines. When the engines didn’t perform to a satisfactory level, the company switched to Pratt & Whitney PW610 engines and eventually certified the airplane, but years behind schedule and after reportedly spending $1 billion in development costs. Bankruptcy ensued. Holland, an Eclipse customer, and backed by some other Eclipse owners, bought the company out of bankruptcy in 2009. The new Eclipse Aerospace upgraded many of the existing 260 Eclipse 500s and, in 2013, began manufacturing a new variant called the Eclipse 550, which incorporates a number of upgrades including autothrottles and anti-skid brakes.
Klapmeier plans to host a briefing on the merger on April 21 at the Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida.