DayJet Fades; Eclipse Reacts

If very light jets are going to succeed in revolutionizing general aviation, they will have to overcome a big hit suffered this week. Air-taxi operator DayJet suspended operations and grounded its fleet of 28 Eclipse 500s with no indications that it will recommence service. DayJet was Eclipse's largest and highest profile customer (with more than 200 Eclipse 500s ordered and options for 70 more), so its shutdown marks the second body blow for Eclipse in two weeks. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, airframer suffered the ignominy of a Congressional hearing last week into the FAA certification of its Eclipse 500 twinjet. The FAA has defended the Eclipse certification in the face of public scrutiny (the intensity of which was no doubt lessened by the current overriding financial crisis). Statements from DayJet lay some of the blame for its failure on Eclipse's inability to deliver what it promised in performance, cost of operation and, most important, certification and delivery schedules. Also contributing to DayJet's woes is the worsening economy, in which once plentiful venture funding has dried up almost completely. Eclipse bucked the prevailing logic in a written statement that maintains, despite its failure, that DayJet proved the concept of the per-seat, air-taxi business model. Eclipse says it remains confident that someone else will enter the market and succeed.