Eclipse makes delivery on its 1st microjet
The company offering a new kind of jet is backed by Bill Gates.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Eclipse Aviation has made a major voyage with a very small jet.
The company run by a former Microsoft executive and backed by Bill Gates has become the second in the U.S to deliver one of the new planes, known as microjets, "very light jets," or VLJs, which are expected to fill the skies over the next decade.
They generally have two engines, five or six passenger seats, automated cockpits and cost half as much as the most inexpensive business jet now in service.
The company's recent first delivery was a significant milestone after a bumpy year in which the nine-year-old manufacturer endured a lengthy federal certification process.
Only privately owned Eclipse Aviation, whose second-largest investor is Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, and Cessna Aircraft Co., a unit of Textron Inc., have received Federal Aviation Administration certification for the jets so far. Cessna delivered its first in November.
1.5M list price
The Eclipse 500, dubbed the SUV of the skies, currently lists at 1.5 million. Eclipse president Vern Raburn said the company hopes to deliver 500 planes to customers this year.
Raburn said the initial purchaser, Jet-Alliance, paid just 995,000, which included 82,000 in options. The shared-jet ownership cooperative, based in Westlake Village, Calif., was one of Eclipse's original customers -- hence, the lower sales price.
There currently are 39 planes on the production line at its Albuquerque manufacturing facility, with five ready for customer delivery after the FAA certifies each individual aircraft, Eclipse officials said.
Officials predicted the Eclipse 500 will change the way people travel, making it more affordable for small businesses or private owners to have aircraft and for air-taxi services to ferry passengers.