Decision on resuming Eclipse 500 production expected in early 2010

Washington DC
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This story is sourced from Flight International
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Eclipse Aerospace, which plans to begin offering in September upgrades and maintenance for the Eclipse 500, plans to decide in the first quarter of next year on whether to resume production of the very light jet.

"We won't concentrate on that until the company is up and running. We'll probably make a decision in six months," says Eclipse Aerospace co-founder Michael Press.

He adds Eclipse Aerospace, which has purchased the assets of bankrupt manufacturer Eclipse Aviation for $40 million, will need additional funds if it decides to pursue resuming production. "We have enough money now to run the company and to study restarting production," Press says.

The last Eclipse 500 rolled off the production line in Albuquerque, New Mexico last October. Several foreign aircraft manufacturers have since expressed interest in taking over production but Press says Eclipse Aerospace "would open production in Albuquerque and then look overseas".

Press says the foreign manufacturers which expressed interest earlier this year in acquiring Eclipse Aviation and moving production overseas decided against participating in the final auction of the bankrupt company's assets due in part to the lengthy and tedious review process a foreign bidder would be required to complete. "We knew there would be no foreign bidder if there was a US bidder," he says. But he adds Eclipse Aerospace will consider in the future bringing in one of these companies as a partner.

The chairman of Eclipse 500 operator Jet-Alliance, Randall Sanada, says the Eclipse Owners Group (EOG) has been told production could resume in 6 to 18 months. "It depends on who they partner with," Sanada says. "They are trying to partner with the Chinese."

He says the EOG supports the resumption of production "as it would be good for the long-term viability of the company". Jet-Alliance, which manages four Eclipse 500s, is one of several Eclipse 500 operators interested in acquiring additional aircraft. "We have every intention of increasing our Eclipse fleet," Sanada says.

Jet-Alliance had organized a bid to buy the 28 Eclipse 500s previously operated by defunct air taxi operator DayJet but was trumped by a bid from Eclipse Aerospace, which intends to re-sell the aircraft after completing upgrades.