Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Eclipse Aviation sold out most of the first two year's production of its Eclipse 500 on the day it opened its orderbook for the $775,000 personal jet.


Customers who attended the launch in Phoenix, Arizona, on 26 May, placed deposits on all 160 aircraft available from the first two year's of production, says Eclipse president Vern Raburn. Bidders also signed up for some of the 40 aircraft that will be offered via Internet auction. "It was like a revival meeting," he says.

Eclipse, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has established three purchase programmes. Platinum Level requires a $155,000 deposit and guarantees an early delivery position, which is transferable. All 160 Platinum positions were sold on the first day, Raburn says. Eclipse also sold several Gold Level positions, which require a $37,500 deposit and guarantee delivery from 2005. Deposits will become non-refundable at the end of August, after Eclipse provides performance and price guarantees for the aircraft, he says.

The company has reserved 40 of the first 200 delivery positions, and 100 of the first 1,000, for internet auction to Bidder's Club members. Membership costs $5,000 and auctions will be held 120 days before the date of aircraft delivery. The reserve price will be 5% below the list price, Raburn says. Eclipse 500 deliveries are due to begin in August 2003.

Eclipse's purchase programme differs substantially from that of rival Safire Aircraft, which has assigned over 600 delivery positions for its $800,000 S-26 personal aircraft, secured by $8,000 refundable deposits. Orders will become binding and Safire will request another $80,000 non-refundable deposits only when the first prototype S-26 flies, in mid-2002.

West Palm Beach, Florida-based Safire, having secured over $3 million privately, plans to raise up to $25 million through an initial public offering now under way. This would fund the company through to completion of the conforming prototype. Eclipse, meanwhile, has raised $60 million from private investors and is beginning a second round of financing.

Safire has more ambitious production plans than Eclipse. The company hopes to build 235 S-26s in the first full year of production, ramping up to over 500 annually within five years.

Raburn says Eclipse's plans are more "modest" and will be paced by the need to monitor the aircraft's performance in service before ramping up production to higher rates.

Source: Flight International