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EASA withdraws Eclipse 500 certification

The European Aviation Safety Agency has withdrawn certification from the Eclipse 500 very light jet, which it had originally approved on 21 November 2008. EASA says certification has been removed for "administrative reasons only, not technical".

It is understood that the "administrative reasons" are related to Eclipse's obligations to EASA, such as payment for certification services, and that these could be rectified.

On 25 November, only four days after the Eclipse 500 won European certification, Albuquerque, USA-based Eclipse Aviation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

On 5 March the company entered Chapter 7 liquidation when a bidder, EclipseJet Aviation International owned by investment company Etirc, failed to produce the funds to purchase Eclipse.  EclipseJet had plans to build the aircraft in Ulyanovsk. Since then the investment company behind EclipseJet, Etirc, has itself folded.

EASA's actions are no surprise to Europe's small band of Eclipse owners. "Commercial operation of the Eclipse 500 is going to be impossible in Europe for the next two years at least," says Conor Neill, managing director of Spanish company TaxiJet, which was planning to launch an Eclipse 500-based air taxi service this year with up to 14 jets.

The company's only VLJ is operated privately and placed on the US N-register. EASA says that at present there are no -500s on European registers, and none of the type have been modified to the EASA certification standard.

Neil explains: "To bring the aircraft up to EASA standards will cost around $250,000, but none of the four prospective buyers for Eclipse are looking at investing in this for some time as their business plans call for maintaining and servicing the existing fleet of 266 aircraft for at least two years." The auction to sell the assets of beleaguered airframer is set for early August.

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