AERO: Two become One Aviation as Eclipse and Kestrel merge

Two relative newcomers to the general aviation industry have merged, with the long-term goal of producing a range of aircraft and services, designed to shake-up what it calls “an under-utilised and under-developed GA market”.

Eclipse Aerospace, manufacturer of the EA550 very light jet (VLJ) and Kestrel Aircraft – developer of the KA350 single-engined turboprop – have joined forces under the brand name One Aviation, because of their strategy to serve a broad range of aviation customers from the newcomer, to the seasoned user, to the person looking to exit the market.

“For too long this industry has failed to communicate the value of GA to a mass audience and this has really stifled its potential and subsequently its growth,” says Kestrel Aircraft founder and chief executive Alan Klapmeier, who is heading the new venture. “People are put off by its artificial barriers,” he continues. “Many believe this industry is just for the privileged few, but we plan to remove that mental block. In 10 years time, we will be selling aircraft to people for whom today it is only a dream.”

One Aviation plans to offer a range of aircraft products, including new designs, out of service types – which could be acquired and upgraded – or even in-service models. These could be added to the line-up through company mergers.

“We are looking for aircraft with good DNA,” says Eclipse and One Aviation president Kenneth Ross. "We are currently in discussion with a couple of companies now,” he adds.

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Klapmeier anticipates that the new venture will give the KA350 programme new momentum, after struggling to secure sufficient funding to bring the seven-seat high performance single to market so far. “We are already three years late on a three-year project," says Klapmeier, in a tongue-in-cheek swipe at the aircraft’s original development timetable.

“Under One Aviation, the KA350 will definitely come to market, as the project – now in its detailed design phase – will be funded through the sales of the EA550,” he continues. “It is now vitally important that we start to step up the marketing and sales effort for this VLJ and start to communicate this aircraft’s unique selling points, something Eclipse hasn’t done that well so far,” Klapmeier explains.

“They have focused on putting the finishing touches to the EA550, but not on selling the aircraft, which is why they only delivered around 12 aircraft last year. We need to bring the EA550 to the customers and show them why they would want one.”