Eclipse’s largest shareholder remains in a bullish mood, despite negative press for the Eclipse 500 VLJ.

Matthijas de Haan, managing director of Eclipse shareholder European Technology and Investment Research Center (ETIRC), denied that the recent US Department of Transportation investigation into the actions of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials relating to the Eclipse 500’s certification would impact the European market.

FAA engineers and safety inspectors had alleged that serious design problems with the aircraft were flagged during the certification process but not corrected before the issuance of the type certificate. But de Haan told last week’s at the Very Light Jets Europe conference in Barcelona: “Operators in Europe are not concerned about the FAA investigation.” He pointed out that the in-service fleet had been proven to be safe.

Eclipse has also been hit by the collapse of Florida-based air taxi operator DayJet, which wound up operating just 12 of the 239 Eclipse 500s it planned to acquire. Founder Ed Iacobucci could not source sufficient capital to stay afloat.


Evgeny Andrachnikov, chairman of Russian air taxi operator Dexter, believes DayJet was too ambitious: “The reason DayJet collapsed is that if you buy 28 pieces at once the fixed cost kills you. Do it steadily, no matter how long it takes.  Work out how many aircraft you need if the critical mass is not there to start with.”

De Haan says the 1,000 hour per-year per-aircraft model was inherently flawed: “We have seen 33 business plans in Europe in relation to the Eclipse trying to create something from out of nothing, with that kind of utilization in a couple of years. We don’t believe that. A ballpark figure with these new models would be 400-500h per year to make it work.”

Joe Leader, president of the Air Taxi Association (ATXA) says it is important to create a market in advance: “DayJet had 1,500 customers, but only 500 actually flew. Of those only 200 flown had flown more than once and 50 ten times. We need steep numbers of passengers. The big question is how do you convert members into flights in advance of launching?” He suggested code sharing might be one option.

Another key issue for Eclipse is availability of aircraft. Flight International recently reported that Day Jet’s launch was delayed for more than a year by the Eclipse 500’s certification problems, and 16 of the 28 aircraft delivered were awaiting a crucial avionics upgrade before they could be flown in revenue service.

Flight International also reported that Linear Air of Boston said its plans to expand from its current fleet of four leased Eclipses has been held back by 12 months by delays in getting hold of new examples of the VLJ.

These concerns were echoed by some of the European operators present. Speaking at the conference, Connor Neill of Spanish start-up TaxiJet says his company “may consider other types” if Eclipses are not forthcoming.

Dr Frank Noppel, chief executive of UK start-up Ambeo says his company will start operations with a Cessna Citation Mustang and an Eclipse 500 and evaluate the success of each over a six-month period. “We will have to wait and see. It is a question of economics and which one performs better,” he says.

De Haan remains positive. He says: “We have a state of the art manufacturing facility in Europe. There are many opportunities for growth and China, India and Indonesia are all superb environments for air taxi models. I believe we will have strong penetration within this sector in the next five years.”


Source: Flight Daily News