Eclipse Aerospace is on target to restart production of the Eclipse 500 in 18 months, after the company completed another hurdle in its efforts to return the existing fleet of 260 very light jets to full service.

Chairman and chief executive Mason Holland, who led the buyout of the assets of failed Eclipse Aviation in late 2009, says the original 24 to 36-month schedule the company set itself to resume production at the time of the acquisition remains intact.

At Oshkosh, the company confirmed it had won Federal Aviation Administration approval for all Eclipse 500s to fly again at 41,000ft.

The company says the move - which involves installing recently-recertificated combustion liners on the aircraft's two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610Fs to solve a problem of carbon build-up on the static vane of some engines - is "the last in a long list of certification projects" to return the aircraft to full service.

"We now have a 100% certificated product," Holland said.

He added: "Are we announcing production restart yet? No, but I think we are sending some strong signals to the market of our intentions, as we are on target with all major elements of our business plan."

Holland said the priority now was to start serious negotiations with suppliers, but he said the backing of "significant investor" Sikorsky would give potential vendors confidence in any new production programme.

"We are also in a beautiful position in that we have no R&D to retire and no debts," he said.

Eclipse also announced it was adding 75 staff to its workforce of 150, most of whom are based at the former Eclipse Aviation factory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In another subtle change, Eclipse has changed its corporate colours from the original orange to a blue pantone similar to that of Sikorsky, although the logo design stays the same.

Source: Flight International