Eclipse works on US, European avionics, icing upgrades

Washington DC
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Ninety days into its revival of the Eclipse 500 very light jet, Eclipse Aerospace reports that the most recent Avio NG version 1.5 avionics software and flight-into-known-icing modifications are under way at its service centres in Albuquerque and Chicago.

Now with a staff of 60 "associates", Eclipse says it continues to "add engineering and mechanic talent" to support the fleet of more than 200 aircraft delivered in the brief period before the original company went bankrupt in November 2008.

Eclipse Aerospace, formed by Eclipse 500 owner Mike Press and order holder Mason Holland, purchased the assets of the company in August 2009 with a stalking horse offer of $20 million in cash and $20 million in notes. The company officially began operation on 4 September.

The company says it has largely completed the 120-day transition plan it laid out on start-up. Included are approval to source most parts from current inventory and suppliers, getting its Albuquerque and Chicago service centres up and running, launching a recurrent pilot training and flight into known icing/AvioNG 1.5 differences training course at the former factory in Albuquerque, and addressing several service bulletins.

Eclipse says it has 13 mechanics now in Albuquerque, working on eight aircraft upgrades, including one being built to European Aviation Safety Agency standards. Deliveries of the first group of flight into known icing/AvioNG 1.5-upgraded aircraft have begun from its Chicago service centre, albeit later than expected.

"Additional time was needed in getting FAA approvals, parts supply back on line, and completing the technical details of the service bulletin," says Eclipse in a 21 December update. "Now our throughput should ramp as we scale and train our staff. We will continue to add team members to support this effort and are confident our induction/delivery schedule for upgrades should improve beginning in January."

The company says it has also started work to validate its first EASA upgrade, which should be completed by the end of January. "In addition, we are working closely with this customer to place this aircraft into commercial operations as the first EA500 to be utilised for commercial purposes in Europe," says Eclipse Aerospace, adding that the company is not yet able to reveal the customer.

"We recently participated in a co-ordination meeting in Cologne, Germany with EASA officials on completing the EASA service bulletins and preparing for EU-Ops1 [commercial operation approval of the Eclipse 500 in Europe]," the company says.

Eclipse also held its first suppliers' conference in late October, with more than 70 suppliers in attendance, most of them "interested in supporting the new Eclipse Aerospace," the company reports.

Official say they have been receiving 30-40 calls or enquiries a week through their brokerage firm, asking about the Eclipse 500 and listings. "While sales are still slow," the company says, "the activity level is picking up and we anticipate more sales as support of the aircraft improves."