E-commerce company prepares to operate upmarket air taxi service for North America

Eclipse Aviation has received a 1,000-aircraft order from Nimbus Group, a consumer e-commerce company that plans to operate an air taxi service throughout North America using the Eclipse 500 personal jet. The agreement, which calls for delivery over five years from 2004, is valued at $1 billion.

Publicly-traded Nimbus will also make an undisclosed equity investment in Eclipse, which is still raising financing for the programme.

First metal for the Eclipse 500 has been cut, with the maiden flight scheduled for July next year, leading to US certification in December 2003 and first customer delivery in January 2004.


Nimbus, previously known as Take To Auction (TTA), is described as one of the largest sellers at online auction sites.

TTA completed an initial public offering in June last year and is scheduled to be spun off as Nimbus refocuses its business around the air taxi service, operated by wholly-owned NimbusJet.

The programme will be modelled on limousine services, with companies having corporate accounts with Nimbus which employees can access via the internet. Target customers will be middle management levels at Fortune 1000 companies, Nimbus says.

"It will be no different to calling a taxi," says Nimbus. The person hiring an aircraft will set its departure time and destination, but the "internet-friendly" booking system will provide information on other people who might want to share.

Nimbus plans to begin operations in the Washington DC area, expanding to north east and south east USA before moving westwards to complete a network covering North America. The company is looking to obtain its own Part 135 air taxi operating certificate, but also intends to establish a "yellow cab-style" franchise system of pilot-operators flying company-owned aircraft. Eclipse has targeted the "air limousine" market since launching and developing its $837,500, six-passenger aircraft in March last year.

"We didn't know who it would be, but we had a strong belief that the first company to commit to air taxi [operation of the Eclipse 500] would not be in aviation," says Eclipse president and chief executive Vern Raburn. "Nimbus has a good entrepreneurial background."

Safire Aircraft says over half of the 860-plus customers holding delivery positions for its S-26 personal jet have so far agreed to convert their $8,000 refundable deposits to non-refundable orders, in return for price and performance guarantees. The offer has been extended to the end of the month.

Source: Flight International