A New Beginning for Eclipse
Eclipse Aerospace Opens for Business This Week
By James Wynbrandt
Mason Holland, chairman and presidentof Eclipse Aerospace
Mike Press, co-founder and vice president of Eclipse Aerospace
September 3, 2009 — Less than two weeks after acquiring the assets of Eclipse Aviation for $40 million, a new company - Eclipse Aerospace, opened for business on September 1, 2009. The initial objective: caring for the 260 Eclipse E500 twin jets that were built before production ended in 2008, and were subsequently “orphaned” by the company’s ensuing bankruptcy.
“We’re excited that Eclipse is back up and running,” said Mason Holland, chairman and president and self-described “temporary quarterback” of Eclipse Aerospace. “Our key focus is to support the customers. Short-term goals are first, to get parts out to the fleet as soon as possible, and number two, modifications and upgrades.
“They are safe, legal, and certified,” he said of the aircraft, “but only 80 percent complete.”
Mike Press, co-founder and vice president - and owner of E500 SN4 - said the upgrades will be performed at two company service centers, one already operational at Chicago Executive Airport (PWK), and another soon to open at the company’s base at Albuquerque International Airport (KABQ).
“We have basically five main upgrades that we’re working on,” Press said, and they include installations of avionics software, ETT (Extended Tip Tanks), and capability for flight into known icing (FIKI).
Ken Ross, president of Eclipse Aerospace’s Service Division, will oversee the upgrade program. The former owner of North American Jet, a Chicago-based charter company that operates E500s, Ross has already overseen the upgrades of several aircraft. Eclipse Aerospace anticipates strong demand for the upgrades, which will help keep the company going while funding is sought to restart the E500 production line.
“Basically the reason we did this is we know the product, we know the airplane,” Holland said. “It needs to be back into production, it needs to be supported. We decided somebody has to do it. In April, we went to 27 cities in 15 days, and sat down with plane owners, pilots and depositors, and we couldn’t find a single person who didn’t love the plane.”
Response from Eclipse Aviation’s former suppliers has also been encouraging.
“We’re in the process of engaging each and every one of the vendors,” Holland said. “They want to work, like anybody else.”
Holland attributes the original equipment manufacturer’s demise to factors including unrealistic pricing, management problems, and the global credit crunch. But the Eclipse Aerospace team believes the E500 remains well positioned for success in the marketplace, even among single-engine personal jets.
“If you pocket the Eclipse between the personal jet market, and the (Cessna) Mustang and (Embraer) Phenom, we sit in a nice spot,” Holland said. “There’s not another twin-engine jet at 6,000 pounds, so we are the only VLJ in the world.”
EAA AirVenture, the scene of several of the predecessor company’s triumphs, also figures in the company’s plans, though its advertising and marketing budget is “zero,” Holland said. The Eclipse Aerospace principals spoke on the phone this week with EAA President Tom Poberezny to share their plans for resurrecting the company.
We probably will be at AirVenture next year,” said Holland. “We want to be involved with EAA and keep that relationship going.”