Very-light jet manufacturer Eclipse Aviation has secured an equity investment exceeding $100 million in a deal involving ETIRC Aviation, its exclusive distributor for Eastern Europe, Russia, the CIS and Turkey.

ETIRC Aviation is owned by the Netherlands-based investment firm European Technology and Investment Research Center. The equity infusion will make ETIRC the single largest shareholder in Eclipse, with chief executive Roel Pieper becoming non-executive chairman of the VLJ manufacturer.

The investment secures ETIRC the right to establish local assembly of the Eclipse 500 VLJ, and it is in "advanced stages of discussions" on the location of the facility, says Eclipse, with Ulyanovsk in Russia as the leading candidate. Eclipse says the first aircraft should roll off the Russian assembly line in 2009.

Eclipse 500
                                                                                              © Eclipse Aviation

Under the agreement, Luxembough-based ETIRC Aviation will add Western Europe and the UK to its exclusive distribution and services area.

The investment will enable Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Eclipse to boost production and achieve profitability. The company delivered just over 100 aircraft in its first year of production, far short of the planned 500 VLJs, and needs to ramp up to two aircraft a day.

ETIRC's expanded involvement "represents a significant acceleration of our business plan", says Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn. "Expanding our relationship with ETIRC will rapidly increase the impact of the Eclipse 500 in this region."

According to ETIRC's website, the company was founded in 2004 "to leverage Russia's and the CIS's wealth of knowledge and resources into the West and vice versa". The investment firm has offices in Russia, Turkey and Israel.

Pieper, like Raburn, is a former IT industry executive, having been the CEO of Tandem Computers and senior VP of strategy at Dutch electronics giant Philips.

ETIRC Aviation was appointed the Eclipse distributor for Russia, other CIS states and Turkey in 2006. The company offers fleet financing, VLJ leasing, scheduling and operations systems, pilots, training programmes and maintenance facilities to air taxi operators.