Charleston-based North American Jet has received US Federal Aviation Administration approval to fly its fleet of 10 Eclipse 500 very light jets in single-pilot mode for charter flights - a first for the nascent fleet of five-seat, twin-engined jets.
The approval follows NAJet's upgrade of its fleet to the latest specifications by Eclipse Aerospace, the company that bought the assets of the bankrupt Eclipse Aviation in August and launched operations in September, focusing first on upgrades, service and parts for the fleet of more than 200 aircraft.
Included in the upgrades are flight into known icing capability and AvioNG version 1.5. The avionics include an S-Tec autopilot coupled to a Garmin 400 GPS navigation system for reduced pilot workload on departures, en route and approach phases of flight.
NAJet expects to add additional Eclipse jets to its fleet as it is made available through the upgrade and refurbishment programme under way at Eclipse's Albuquerque factory and Chicago service centre.
Eclipse Aerospace co-founder and executive vice-president Mike Press says the company has completed 20 of the $149,000 upgrades to date, with 20 more "in the works". Press says there is likely to be a price increase after the first 40 aircraft are completed because of increased parts prices from suppliers.
Along with upgrades, Eclipse is also working to refurbish the fleet of 26 DayJet aircraft that were included in the sale. DayJet, an all-Eclipse per-seat on-demand air taxi service, went out of business in September 2008. Press says Eclipse will announce the price and schedule for delivering those aircraft this month.
The company is also upgrading an Eclipse 500 in Albuquerque for Spanish air taxi operator Jet Ready. When completed and certificated, the aircraft will be the first of the type to receive European certification for commercial operations. Jet Ready plans to acquire 23 jets within the next four years to operate from its bases in Barcelona, Madrid, Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Valencia and Zaragoza.
Press says JetReady pilots will begin training in Albuquerque on their first aircraft in April.