Very light jet manufacturer Eclipse Aviation has made its first inroad into India with a deal to supply New Delhi-based Club One Air with 10 Eclipse 500s. Four aircraft are due to be delivered this year and the remaining six in 2009.
"I think it's a very affordable solution," says Club One Air managing director Manav Singh. "Nobody has a plane that's as affordable to acquire and operate as the Eclipse," he adds.
Club One Air, India's first fractional ownership company, already offers nine larger business jets for charter as the country's largest non-scheduled operator, but Singh says the potential customer base for these services is limited to around 10,000 people.
"We plan to get the middle class of the country to start chartering aircraft," he says. "We are in negotiations to buy a substantially larger fleet and I do hope to conclude those negotiations before the end of the year."
Although Eclipse 500 operations will initially be focused on Delhi and Mumbai, Singh says he has identified "over 25 small industrial towns" that could eventually be served by charter services. He is also looking at adopting a similar "seat on demand" model to that used by DayJet in the USA. The Eclipse 500s will be operated by a separate company promoted by Singh.
As part of the deal with Eclipse, Club One Air has the "opportunity" to take responsibility for supporting Eclipse 500 operators in the region. Singh says the company also wants to become a distributor for Eclipse and offer Eclipse 500s for fractional ownership.
Eclipse is exhibiting a UK-based Eclipse 500 at the Singapore Airshow, which made 14 stops during its journey to Asia including, an appearance at the ABACE show in Hong Kong earlier this month.
Eclipse vice president marketing and sales Mike McConnell says the manufacturer is close to reaching a one-aircraft-per-day production rate. "We do intend to get to two-aircraft-per-day in 2008," he adds.
Eclipse delivered 98 of 104 aircraft built in 2007 following the fastest jet aircraft production ramp up in history. McConnell says total sales are approaching 2,700.
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