Monday, November 17, 2008

Eclipse Aviation... Is it Over?

Launched only a few years ago, Eclipse Aviation promised to change the world of private air travel with its affordable “Very Light Jet.” The Eclipse aircraft, coined the Eclipse 500 would start at a cost of just about $1.2 million. Personally, I believed that the sky would be filled with the attractive Eclipse 500 in only a few years time. Let’s face it... the Eclipse 500, brand new, is about a third the cost of many used King Air Turboprops! The Eclipse 500 introduced the fiscal possibility of jet ownership to a whole new economic bracket. Further down the line, with its low operating cost, the 500 subsequently created a whole new price category for air charter as well.

Unfortunately however, Eclipse Aviation is currently suffering serious hardship. Employees of Eclipse Aviation have not received a paycheck in the past two weeks and were told on Saturday morning that they should not expect those paychecks to come. It is clear and obvious what will be happening.

Eclipse offered a promising product with real potential to change the world of business aviation; the airplanes were launched into service too soon, however. Mechanical defaults amongst operational aircraft became extremely high, and subsequently the list of systemwide recalls became quite substantial. Eclipse can’t afford to keep up with the “progressive design” that is necessary for the 500; the aircraft really was never completed and is still a work in progress. Owners keep having to send their planes back to the factory to have the squawks worked out of them. Basically, the owners are having to bring their planes back in order to finish their completion.

Eclipse was the real frontrunner in the Very Light Jet (VLJ) market, but they have been followed by more financially stable companies such as Cessna with the Citation Mustang. Cessna will be able to cope with the financial implementations of a new aircraft category much better than Eclipse. With that said, I firmly believe that the Citation Mustang project has potential for success.

As far as the success of the Eclipse 500... I’d argue that the time to scrap the program is near. Had the aircraft been mechanically flawless, the outcome may have been different. I’m only sorry for those who purchased the plane who will inevitably find themselves owning an unfinished airplane with uncertain recourse. My prediction is that in only a few years from now, one will be able to pick up a used Eclipse 500 for just a couple hundred thousand dollars (if that).

There is always a cost associated with being the first on the block with the new toy. Remember... Caveat emptor: Buyer beware.

Written By:

Alex Early
Founder & President
The Early Air Way, LLC

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