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The business aircraft that changed the world: No. 6

Would the very light jet revolution have happened without the Eclipse 500? We think not.

True, it was not the first of its type. That distinction belongs to the Morane-Saulnier Paris, and partly explains why Eclipse founder Vern Raburn decided to launch a start-up aircraft factory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The result was a flawed product with an unexecutable business plan. But Raburn's vision revealed a hunger for an entirely different kind of business jet.

The Eclipse 500 may still be resurrected as a success, but its impact is already clear with the proliferation of VLJ concepts - and orders - throughout the industry.

It is worth remembering that Raburn did not invent the Eclipse 500. If anyone deserves that distinction, it is aerospace engineer Burt Rutan. He fashioned the Scaled Composites Model 271 Spike, leveraging the Williams FJX-2 engine developed with funding from NASA's advanced general aviation transports experiment programme.

After the concept drifted to Eclipse, the structure was modified from all-composite to metal and from a V- to a T-tail.

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