The long-awaited very light jet (VLJ) revolution took its first concrete step over the weekend, with the first customer delivery of the Eclipse Aviation 500.

The low-key Sunday shipment, possibly the last aircraft delivery in 2006, took place from the company's Albuquerque, New Mexico headquarters (pictured below). However, the event was not marked with a ceremony due to the Western New Year celebrations and a hand-over to owner-flyer David Crowe is scheduled for this week. Seven other of the 37 aircraft at the factory's production line (pictured bottom with Crowe's example) are complete and will be delivered in the early months of 2007, marking the start of the VLJ era.

Eclipse 500 hand-over Crowe W445 
 First eight Eclipse 500s

“Today, as we deliver the first Eclipse 500, our dream of opening up the world of private jet travel to a new realm of customers has become a reality,” says Vern Raburn, president and chief executive of Eclipse Aviation.

Crowe, the first Eclipse owner, has entered into a partnership with Westlake Village, California-based fractional ownership Jet Alliance to maximise his investment. Crowe says: “Although the vision of an affordable jet may have seemed like a risky investment to some back in [the year] 2000, I never doubted this day would come.”