Aeris Aviation – the independent European distributor for the Eclipse 550 – has launched what is believed to be first shared ownership programme in Europe for the very light jet, and hopes to sign up the scheme’s first owners before the end of the month.

The venture will operate on a private-ownership basis, with customers buying up to a one-sixth share in the $2.95 million Eclipse 550. “This programme lowers the barrier to business aircraft ownership and makes private air transport accessible to a lot more people,"says Aeris founder and chief executive David Hayman. “We are in talks with our first group of owners – consisting of three people – and hope to sign them up soon,” he adds.

This aircraft will be delivered at the end of April, but subsequent owners will have to wait up to nine months as each Eclipse 550 is made to order, he says. “Eclipse doesn’t want white tails sitting around,” Hayman says. “Each aircraft is built when a full deposit has been received.”

The shared-ownership programme is managed by Aeris. "As well as the initial acquisition price [broken down by share size], owners pay a monthly management fee of £3,500 [$5,300], which covers the cost of crew, hangarage and maintenance and an occupied hourly rate of £1,500, which excludes the dreaded empty legs,” says Hayman.

The aircraft will be operated on the US N-prefixed registry as the model is not expected to secure European certification until the second half of the year.

“We have had a lot of interest in the programme so far,” he says. “While our first group is London-based, we expect the majority of the shared owners will be positioned across the UK, where the transport links to Europe are not as good.”

Aeris is also looking to roll out the programme across the continent and is now building partnerships in Italy, France and Norway.

The shared-ownership scheme is a stepping-stone towards Aeris’s long-term goal to launch commercial operations in Europe with the Eclipse 550. “This aircraft is just so affordable. The operating costs are not dissimilar to two flexible business-class airline tickets, and yet you have so much more flexibility with a business jet,” says Hayman.

He is confident the EA550 will become a popular choice for travellers. “In the USA between 80% and 90% of the [230+ Eclipse types] are owner-flown and the rest are operated commercially. I think this ratio will be reversed in Europe as people realise the benefits of this aircraft,” he says.

Source: Flight International