Eclipse Aviation has received its largest European order for the Eclipse 500 personal jet, securing a 112-aircraft deal with Swiss company Aviace for its newly launched "private jet club".

Aviace's order is the second-largest single deal for the jet after an order of 1,000 from Nimbus Group, which wants to set up an air-taxi service in North America.

Hilmar Hilmarsson, Aviace chief executive, says the aircraft's low price of $873,000 makes it perfect for the Aviace Club concept, whereby Aviace will supply the aircraft for a fixed term to networks of operators, which in turn will sell them on to club members.

First flight of the Eclipse 500 is expected in late July, leading to US certification in December next year and first deliveries in early 2004. Vern Raburn, president and chief executive of Eclipse Aviation, says a large European customer will not change certification plans for the aircraft because the design is being carried out to Joint Aviation Requirement 23 standards.

But the aircraft is likely to have a lower payload in Europe because keeping operating costs low is crucial, says Raburn. For this, the maximum take-off weight needs to be restricted to 2,000kg (4,400lb), a 140kg reduction. Range under European regulations will also be reduced, to around 1,660km (900nm) from 2,400km. This "is not a problem for Europe", he adds.

Raburn says a key attraction for European customers is that the aircraft needs only 2,060ft (630m) to clear a 50ft obstacle and can use grass runways. The first prototype is in final assembly at Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Williams International 770lb-thrust (3.4kN) EJ22 turbofan is undergoing flight testing on a Rockwell Sabreliner 65.

Aviace Standard 50h membership will have an initial joining fee of c78,000 ($72,000), plus c650 an hour and a monthly management fee of c1,000.

Hilmarsson says Aviace Club has more than 10 memoranda of understanding for membership.

Source: Flight International