Eclipse Aerospace has been keeping a low profile, preferring to quietly get its parts, service and upgrade business on solid footing rather than hawking the virtues of the $2.15 million very light twin-jet. "We're taking a more conservative approach now," says Mason Holland, an Eclipse 500 owner who was disenfranchised with the previous ownership to the point that he and Mike Press bought the company out of bankruptcy. "Everybody over-promises, and under-delivers."
Holland is keeping quiet no longer. "This is an exciting show for Eclipse - it's almost like a coming-out party," he says. The centerpiece for the party is the new AvioNG integrated flight management system (FMS) built by Innovative Solutions and Support (IS&S), a suite that brings to the glass panel modern amenities like geo-referenced approach charts, satellite weather and coupled LPV approaches.
The panel upgrade will be included at no extra cost as part of the Total Eclipse upgrade program. Along with the flight into known icing (FIKI) modification and coupled autopilot, fleet upgrades improve the twin jet's avionics to either the AvioNG version 1.7 or the new integrated FMS. Holland says approximately 100 of the 258 registered Eclipse 500s have received the FIKI and cockpit upgrades, and that the remaining aircraft would be completed in the next 12-18 months. Eclipse has two owned and three authorized service centers where the work is being done.
Holland says the company is also nearing a solution that will allow owners to fly to the aircraft's original 41,000ft (12,500m) service ceiling. An airworthiness directive currently limits the aircraft to 37,000ft due to carbon build-up in the Pratt & Whitney Canada engines. Eclipse is working with PWC on the solution, which includes an internal software solution that "tightens up the integrity of the pylon" to keep cold air from bypassing the heat exchanger.
Holland says Eclipse now has the financing available to restart new production, but is waiting for the market to recover to the point where people are again ready to make such purchases. Meanwhile, he says customers are taking a new look at the aircraft. "Now that we can service the plane and parts are not a problem, people are looking at this airplane again," says Holland. "We're the only plane under $3 million when production returns."