Eclipse Preps Bid for USAF Trainer Contract

Proposal could save the Air Force millions in fuel and maintenance costs.

Eclipse 550
Eclipse 550

Eclipse Aerospace has submitted a proposal for a U.S. Air Force request to supply a “large fleet” of very light jets (VLJ) for use as basic trainers.

The Air Force is seeking to replace its 20-year-old fleet of business jets to support its Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) Multi-Place Training Track. Cost will be a big driver in the decision, both in terms of required maintenance and fuel use.

Eclipse says its proposed solution, which centers on the Eclipse 550 VLJ, could save the Air Force 13 million gallons of jet fuel per year, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance costs. The Air Force SUPT program currently uses the T-1 Jayhawk, the military version of the Beechjet/Hawker 400.

“I have met with senior Air Force leaders and they are looking for an efficient and affordable solution to their challenges,” said Eclipse CEO Mason Holland. Eclipse’s request for information, he said, included stats showing the Air Force could save a billion dollars over 10 years by converting its fleet to the diminutive Eclipse VLJ.

At this point it is unclear if other manufacturers plan to submit bids for the contest. If Eclipse manages to secure the contract, it could cement the company’s future as it seeks to re-enter full-rate production after the 2008 bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation of the original Eclipse Aviation.