The $6 billion revenue aerospace giant is seriously considering a minority stake in the nascent very light jet manufacturer, a company that was reborn in 2009 after the original venture went bankrupt and the assets bought by owners Mason Holland and Mike Press.
"This is huge for our customers," says Holland, Eclipse Aerospace's chief executive, of the agreement that would see Sikorsky handling supply chain, parts, service and the marketing of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F-powered twinjet. "People will no longer question our support."
Sikorsky president Jeff Pino, the owner of an Eclipse 500 upgraded through the Total Eclipse program, is a staunch supporter, judging by a testimonial video posted on the Eclipse website. Sikorsky parent United Technologies also owns Pratt & Whitney Canada, further adding to the marketing leverage the deal brings. The majority owner of the company is a group of investors that Holland oversees.
Holland says Sikorsky's buy-in would not be contingent on restarting production of the aircraft, though financing has been lined up for that eventuality, once the market rebounds.
There are currently 258 Eclipse 500s in the field, about 100 of which have been upgraded to the latest avionics and equipment options, says Holland. The company has a staff of 125, with the majority located at its Albuquerque, New Mexico, factory.
Once production does restart, Holland says Eclipse will look to expand the product line. "If we're going anywhere, we're going up in aircraft size," he says. "We're not going to remain a single-product company."