Eclipse Aviation galvanised general aviation last year when it announced well-funded plans to develop a new class of aircraft ¡ the personal jet. Yesterday the company put its money where its mouth is, announcing price and performance guarantees and unveiling a full-scale mockup of the tiny twinjet.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based company says its all-metal Eclipse 500 will sell for $837,500, complete with comprehensive avionics; cruise as fast as 355kt (655km/h) but stall as slow as 62kt; and carry four people 2,400km (1,300nm). Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2003, says chief executive Vern Raburn, a former Microsoft executive. The avionics suite will be supplied by Avidyne and BAE Systems, and will include large-screen liquid-crystal displays, GPS-based flight management systems, digital autopilot and colour weather radar. The Eclipse is powered by two 770lb-thrust (3.4kN) EJ22s, production versions of Williams International's revolutionary FJX-2 small turbofan, which is being developed with NASA sponsorship under the General Aviation Propulsion programme.

Response to the personal jet concept has been spectacular. Eclipse sold out most of the first two years of planned production of 160 aircraft on the day it opened its orderbook.

Source: Flight Daily News