Eclipse 500

E-mail and teleconferencing are integral in today’s marketplace. But the volume of people going in and out of the nation’s airports shows just crucial the face-to-face meeting still is.

Eclipse Aviation hopes to ease the burden that so much air travel has on these airports while offering luxurious travel at a low cost: on-demand, point-to-point service the company calls its ‘air limousine’ concept.

The Eclipse 500 design features twin 770-lb thrust Williams International EJ22 turbofans, a 400 kts cruise speed and a four-passenger IFR range of 1,300 nm.

The jet will be sold at cost of $837,500. (The first public showing of an Eclipse 500 mock-up is at this year’s Air Venture.) Eclipse says the operating cost for the 500 will be 56 cents a mile. The company says that translates into ticket prices that are competititive with the major airlines, and low costs for the owner/operator.

But is a low cost, ligh-weight jet with a high-powered engine possible? ‘There is a lot of skepticism in the industry,’ says Oliver Macefield, Eclipse vice president of engineering. ‘But this isn’t just a start-up company. We are for real.’

Macefield says the secret behind the Eclipse lies in the use of disruptive technologies.

First, the engine weighs just 85 pounds and provides a higher thrust-to-weight ratio than any commercial turbofan ever produced.

Second, Eclipse is using high volume, low cost manufacturing techniques to produce its mostly-aluminum airframe and all-glass cockpit.

Third, the jet will feature a fully integrated and digital avionic suite focused on safety and reducing pilot load during flight.

Macefield says the company hopes the Eclipse 500 will take its first flight in mid-2002. The company intends to become the first aircraft manufacturer to offer its aircraft in online auctions. Eclipse will auction off 40 of the first 200 delivery positions and a total of at least 100 of the first 1,000 delivery positions to member’s of the company’s Bidder’s Club (see their website at www.eclipseaviation.com for information).

The first Eclipse 500s are scheduled to be delivered in August 2003.