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 http://www.eclipseaviation.com for information).
The first Eclipse 500s are scheduled to be delivered in August 2003.