Helicopter heavyweight Sikorsky Aircraft has finalised its minority investment in the nascent airframer Eclipse Aerospace, buoying the company's plans to restart production of its Eclipse 500 very light jet. Neither company has revealed the level of investment.
The former owner, Eclipse Aviation, suspended operations in 2008 after producing approximately 260 aircraft. Eclipse Aerospace purchased the assets of the bankrupt company for $40 million in 2009, focusing first on restoring parts, service and upgrades to the existing fleet.
With Sikorsky now on board, Eclipse is accelerating previously dormant plans to reopen the production line at its home base in Albuquerque, perhaps as early as 2012 if demand exists. Under a new service level agreement between the two companies, Eclipse will contract with Sikorsky to provide global supply chain support for the Eclipse 500, which may include bringing on new suppliers for existing or new aircraft, if required. Also included will be technical expertise to help the company retool, optimise and restart the production line. Officials says a Sikorsky senior project manager will be located on site in Albuquerque to oversee the efforts.
"We don't know how long it's going to take," says Mike Press, Eclipse Aerospace executive vice president. "A lot depends on the market. We do know it's not going to be this year."