Start-up operator still fundraising, but first Eclipse 500 will arrive this month

Air taxi start-up DayJet has delayed the launch of its service until March next year, but still expects to take delivery of its first Eclipse 500 by the end of November. Eclipse plans to deliver the 12 aircraft needed to launch services between five cities in Florida by January, and DayJet is looking at how to use these to promote its service before the formal launch in March.

Eclipse, meanwhile, hoped to make its first customer delivery by 10 November, pending completion of final US Federal Aviation Administration conformity and inspection. The aircraft will immediately be leased back by the manufacturer. "We need it as a demonstrator, and so far one out of three demonstration flights has resulted in a sale, so that's a good return," says president and chief executive Vern Raburn.

DayJet had planned to launch services this month, but now says that Part 135 operations between its first five DayPorts will begin in March. This gives Eclipse more time to complete the avionics upgrades needed before the Eclipse 500 can operate under Part 135. Sources say that in the meantime, DayJet may operate the aircraft under Part 91 for two to three months to demonstrate its service to potential customers.

DayJet is still in the process of "Series C" fundraising, needed to finance the launch of operations. The company has identified its first cadre of pilots, but says hiring is "on hold" awaiting delivery of aircraft. DayJet says "several hundred" business travellers have signed up for its service, paying a $250 membership fee and agreeing to make four one-way or two round-trip flights in a year.

The much-delayed start of Eclipse deliveries will signal the beginning of a production ramp-up that is expected to see delivery of 525 aircraft by the end of December next year. Some 31 aircraft are currently at some stage of production, ranging from initial lay-up and friction-stir welding to final paint and pre-delivery flight test. Target cycle time at full rate is 10 days - 4.5 days for assembly plus two days each for painting and testing, and customer pick-up.

Of the first 525 aircraft, Raburn says only 100 will be air taxis. Around 80% are destined for owner-operators. Firm order backlog has climbed close to 2,600, he says, with a further 100 orders taken between the end of July and the end of October. The next available delivery date is in late 2008.

Source: Flight International