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Eclipse Completion Program Under Way

By George Larson, Apr 5, 2010 on Aviation Week

A new refurbishment and completion program for the EA500 under the trademark “Total Eclipse” was unveiled last week by Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse Aerospace Inc. (EAI).

“We acquired all the DayJet aircraft from United Technologies’ finance arm, and those will also be completed under the Total Eclipse program and offered to new owners,” CEO Mason Holland tells BA. “There is demand for the aircraft, and this program provides virtually new aircraft to buyers.”

Coupled with the program is a plan to offer trade-in credits from $1 million to $1.7 million, depending on the plane’s condition, so that a current owner can swap a used one for a refurbished one. The trade-in will then enter refurbishment and go up for sale.

As the new company moves to resume production after the former Eclipse Aviation declared bankruptcy last year, Holland emphasizes that his approach will be conservative, a tacit comparison with past management, which, in his view, promised too much and priced the aircraft before costing it. Customers under Total Eclipse can fly away in a 100% complete EA500, including avionics and flight in known icing (FIKI), for the original price of $2.15 million.

Holland says production of the EA500 will resume, but declines to say when or at what production rate (BA, March 29/7). He also tells BA that the recent decision to join the General Aviation Manufacturers Association shows that his future agenda includes the restart of production.

Holland says the investment to get to this point has been significant. Most aircraft were 80% to 85% complete, he says, and EAI has focused on completing the design and certification of the original aircraft and its promised systems, to include FIKI and GPS-coupled autopilot. He balances talk of the company’s investment with signs of growing market demand, particularly among charter operators.

“They are telling us they need more airplanes,” Holland says. European operators are drawn to the fact that the EA500’s carbon emissions are so low that it is exempt from carbon laws. He says that of the 260 EA500 aircraft out there, only 10% were on the market compared with twice that for many other makes and models.

Holland says he and co-founder Mike Press held meetings with prospective owners, stopping at 27 fixed-base operators across the U.S., an initiative that led to the launch of Total Eclipse. “We heard lots of complaints about the [former] company,” he says. “But nobody complained about the airplane. Not one.”

The refurbished aircraft leave the Chicago Eclipse service facility with approval for flight to FL410, a 20,000-cycle life, radar, moving maps and Jepp eCharts. Every airplane will carry a factory warranty, and early buyers will receive a guaranteed buyback in which EAI agrees to take back the aircraft for a guaranteed dollar amount to be applied toward a production slot when production resumes — not “if” but “when.”

In a brochure accompanying last week’s announcement, the following provisions were listed for aircraft sold under Total Eclipse: each aircraft delivered with 300-hour/24-month inspection; the current P&WC Gold ESP engine plan paid up to date of delivery; a one-year, 300-hour limited warranty; all service bulletins complete; one initial or recurrent type rating credit included; a one-year Jeppesen subscription; one-year maintenance manual updates; RVSM certified; and EASA upgradable. Features include XM Weather and WAAS capability (LPV).

Photo credit: Frances Fiorino