Eclipse 500: Approaching Totality
Flight Global, by Michael Gerzanics
With the Total Eclipse package, the Eclipse 500 is finally what was promised at launch
With a new fully integrated avionics suite and the name Sikorsky on its masthead (as a minority owner), Eclipse Aerospace's Eclipse 500 very light jet is deserving of one last, long look.
On 28 April, I travelled to New Mexico to sample one of the latest aircraft to leave the former factory in Albuquerque - a converted DayJet air taxi - to evaluate the type in its most recent, and perhaps, final form.
That the Eclipse 500 remains available today despite its growing pains is testament to the value-and-fun proposition. Minority buy-in by Sikorsky in 2010 - to aid with both parts distribution and the eventual restart of the production line when and if economic conditions allow - only boosts the company's chances of being bigger and stronger for the type's tenth anniversary in 2016.
Conceived in the late 1990s and certificated in 2006, the Eclipse 500 promised to turn the status quo on its head. For less than $1 million, about the price of a Beechcraft Baron, the masses could buy a six-place twinjet that could fly four occupants more than 1,850km (1,000nm) in pressurised comfort. The original company (Eclipse Aviation) touted the type as "flying in the face of convention", but the development process was far from a breeze. Switching engine supplier from Williams International to Pratt & Whitney caused a two-year delay. The original Avidyne-sourced glass cockpit was binned in favour of an internally sourced "Avio" one.
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