Declaring the Eclipse 550 a “mature” design, One Aviation CEO Alan Klapmeier said the next step in the light jet’s development is global expansion. European certification of the twin was completed Nov. 18. Certification work in China is underway.
The Eclipse 500, from which the 550 is derived, is already certified in Europe. Jet Lounge is a new European sales and service partner. Jet Lounge was chosen for its vision of improving the customer experience, something Klapmeier says is critical to the future of aviation. “The airplane is just a piece of the deal. We must help the customer get the most benefit out of the aircraft,” he said. Meanwhile, Klapmeier is “very bullish on China.” One Aviation recently announced that Jinggong General Aviation Co. will be the exclusive distributer for Eclipse in China. Jinggong has ordered 20 aircraft, with deliveries expected to begin in about six months.
In total, One Aviation expects to deliver 14 to 18 Eclipse 550s next year plus an additional dozen SE models, which are original 500s upgraded to the same level as 550s. The SE editions follow the Total Eclipse models, which predecessor company Eclipse Aerospace upgraded over the past few years, but to differing levels of sophistication. The SE models will all be done to the latest 550 standards.
Ascension Air is about to take delivery of a new 550, according to Klapmeier. Ascension Air founder Jamail Larkins said the airplane will be based at its Atlanta headquarters and sold in one-sixth shares for $525,000 each. Ascension currently sells and manages shares of Cirrus airplanes. He sees the Eclipse 550 as a step-up airplane for Ascension customers, who primarily fly themselves. With the jet, customers can get a single-pilot type rating and fly it themselves. However, the monthly management fee of $2,995 includes a safety pilot who will be typed in the airplane, giving pilot owners the option of not bothering to get the type rating. The share price gives an Eclipse owner 50 days a year of access at $620 per flight hour. On typical jet legs, the Eclipse will cost about 60 cents per mile more than a Cirrus, according to Larkins.
One Aviation was formed earlier this year when Eclipse Aerospace and Kestrel Aircraft merged. Klapmeier, the founder of Kestrel, became the head of the new company. Progress on the Eclipse has continued while Klapmeier continues to seek funding to move forward on the Kestrel single-engine turboprop. Klapmeier said the production Kestrel is unlikely to have a Honeywell engine on it. Kestrel and Honeywell announced with great fanfare at EAA AirVenture 2011 that the Honeywell TPE331-14GR would power the airplane, supplanting the Pratt & Whitney PT-6 on the proof-of-concept airplane. Now, however, Klapmeier is dissatisfied with the Honeywell relationship, although he refused to provide details for publication. Honeywell chose not to respond to Klapmeier's comment.
Klapmeier noted the company’s good relationship with Pratt & Whitney. The Pratt & Whitney PW600 turbofan powers the Eclipse 550. With that, he suggested a PT-6 might find its way back onto the Kestrel.