EA Aerospace – the Turkish founding partner of Eclipse Aerospace – is gearing up to launch an air taxi service in the second quarter of 2013 using Eclipse very light jets (VLJ). The project is the first step in what EA Aerospace hopes will eventually spawn an air taxi network spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“I have held the view for many years now that the Eclipse is the perfect aircraft for the air taxi market,” says Ekim Alptekin, EA Aerospace president and Eclipse shareholder. Alptekin has harboured ambitions for a large air taxi network for several years.
In 2008 he was forced to abandon plans to launch his original air taxi offering, Myjet Aviation, following the collapse of Eclipse Aviation. “We had orders for 120 Eclipse 500s but only one was delivered before the manufacturer went bankrupt,” says Alptekin.
“Although I lost a lot of money, I never lost faith in the product. I decided to become a shareholder and board member in the new company so I could help bring the product back to market and establish a global support network for the aircraft.”
The air taxi service – yet to be branded – is undergoing “concept” flights with the original Eclipse 500, owned by Alptekin, and a Total Eclipse. The first of three Eclipse 550s – featuring synthetic vision and auto throttles – is earmarked for delivery in the third quarter of this year – shortly after planned US certification.
“Two aircraft will be based in Ankara and three in Istanbul and will serve the markets in and around Turkey, where there is huge demand for affordable, flexible transportation – the Eclipse ticks all the boxes,” says Alptekin.
In Europe, the air taxi market is still in its infancy and the installed base of EA500s is only around 26 aircraft, says Flightglobal’s Ascend online database – a few of which are operated commercially.
“We are going to finally prove the air taxi concept with the Eclipse,” says Alptekin. “No other [entry-level] aircraft [in the entry-level sector] offers the same value proposition as this aircraft.”