During its inaugural dealer conference last week in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Eclipse Aerospace announced the official production launch for the Model 550, the successor to the original Eclipse 500 very light jet.
To mark the occasion, members of the Eclipse management team and board of directors on Friday signed the fuselage of the first production airplane, Serial Number 1001. The ceremony continued with the Eclipse production team officially mating the forward keel assembly to the fuselage. Now armed with a newly awarded FAA production certificate and a certified airframe, Eclipse expects the first production 550 to roll out of the factory next year.
The original Eclipse Aviation obtained certification for the Eclipse 500 in September 2006 and built 260 airplanes before going bankrupt in November 2008. The new Eclipse Aerospace said it is planning for an initial low-volume production schedule, with the first airplane predicted to take approximately 12 months to complete as the balance of the production line is re-tooled and validated during this time. Full production of an estimated 50 to 100 airplanes per year is expected to be reached by 2014 – depending on demand – when supply of major components fully shifts to PZL Mielec in Poland.
In addition to the production announcement, Eclipse also announced the official start of the Eclipse International Dealer organization. Eclipse Dealers from around the world representing more than 30 countries attended and signed agreements last week for the purchase of new Eclipse 550 jets slated for delivery in 2014 and early 2015.
The new model Eclipse 550 is based on the Eclipse 500, but will include auto-throttles, synthetic vision, enhanced vision, and a redundant flight management system. The price for the Eclipse 550 has been set at just under $3 million.