Though known for its helicopters, Sikorsky has a legacy that includes some iconic fixed-wing aircraft dating back to the 1930s. Now, the company is back in the fixed-wing business. During the NBAA Convention in Atlanta last week, Sikorsky signed an agreement in principle to invest in Eclipse Aerospace, the company that has acquired the rights to the Eclipse 500 very light jet. A subsidiary of United Technologies, Sikorsky hopes to leverage its aftermarket and product support capability to provide Eclipse with the support network and financial backing it needs to bring the Eclipse 500 back to production. It's been an uphill climb for Eclipse Aerospace, a group consisting largely of Eclipse 500 owners. Their first order of business since taking over a bit more than a year ago has been to provide support for the 260 aircraft in the fleet. Next, has been the effort to upgrade and update the avionics and systems of all those aircraft under the "Total Eclipse" program. Also at NBAA, company CEO Mason Holland brought good news on that front. The AvioNG fully integrated flight management system was introduced to an enthusiastic response from customers. The system, from Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S), provides coupled localizer performance with vertical guided approaches (LPV), airways, holding patterns and a host of other features. Holland said, "This is not a promise; it's a delivery. We made a promise last year that we would deliver a fully GPS-coupled system, and this final integration goes beyond what we promised. It is available now, we are taking orders and there will be no increase in the base price of the Total Eclipse." Retrofit prices for aircraft that have already received a Total Eclipse upgrade have not been set, and Holland said downtime is expected to be less than a week for those retrofits. The next step will be to add autothrottle capability, he said. As to a return to production, Holland said it's become a matter of market forces rather than having the aircraft ready for the assembly line. "We're ready to produce," he said. "But the market isn't ready. When the market is right, we'll enter production."
Eclipse Has a New Partner: Sikorsky
Photo: Mark Phelps