When you fall down, you get right back up. That’s the lesson learned by Eclipse Aviation recently after the successful launch in late 2006 of their first plane, the Eclipse 500. The company was the originator of the Very Light Jet (VLJ) category with over 250 planes in the air before a lack of funding forced them into bankruptcy in early 2009. The assets of the defunct business were purchased a few months later by a new group of investors and the new entity was christened as Eclipse Aerospace.
Determined to rebuild the company, the first task of business was to revive the support infrastructure required for their existing customer base with parts and systems updates. And now two years later, they’ve announced they’re ready to begin production again on their successful Eclipse 500 VLJ, renamed the Eclipse 550. The new jet has been enhanced with new avionics including enhanced vision systems and an updated flight management system. And a cash injection last year by respected Sikorsky Aircraft, maker of the military Blackhawk Helicopter, provided not only credibility, but brought access to Sikorsky’s powerful supply chain, necessary for successful production. It didn’t hurt either, that Jeff Pino, president of Sikorsky also owns and flies an Eclipse 500.
The six seat Eclipse 550 is designed as a low cost jet option to compete with the turboprop market, with a low acquisition cost of $2.7 million. Primarily marketed to owners who have not owned a jet before, the plane is touted as the most efficient jet in the world, with operating costs of about $625/hour. Its short landing strip requirement makes it capable of landing at very small airports, allowing field managers to visit multiple company branches in a single day. With a speed of 430mph and a range of 1125 nautical miles, it is a perfect solution for those wanting the comfort and speed of a jet at a cost comparable with a propeller aircraft.
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