An Eclipse 500, the first flying, fully conforming very light jet, made its maiden public appearance at Sun ‘n Fun last month.
Only days later, the company announced a firm order for 239 of its jets from DayJet Corp., a pioneer in what it calls “per-seat, on-demand” jet services. DayJet also took options on 70 more Eclipse 500s, the company said.
N503EA, which flew to Sun ‘n Fun, is one of three conforming Eclipse 500s currently flying. In fact, its departure for Sun ‘n Fun from its Albuquerque, N.M., home was later than planned because, earlier in the day, it served as chase plane for the first flight of N502EA. A third sister ship, N504EA, joined them on April 21, said Vern Raburn, Eclipse CEO.
Average speed for the flight to Sun ‘n Fun was 270 knots – well below the airplane’s capability, but “we had to stay back with our MU-2 chase plane,” which was at its top speed, Raburn told a crowd gathered around the Eclipse as it was parked. Raburn should know. He was flying in the MU-2.
Eclipse really created the very light jet market, which has been joined by a number of competitors since its announcement “more years ago than I like to think about,” Raburn said. Other VLJs are flying now, but none has been built on production tooling to full production standards, he stated.
On April 25, DayJet President and CEO Edward Iacobucci announced his firm’s order. “Market and technology forces have combined to make this the right time for ‘per-seat, on-demand’ air travel, and our relationship with Eclipse is a cornerstone to our strategy,” he said. “The Eclipse 500’s low acquisition and direct operating costs, in combination with its excellent performance, make it an ideal platform for delivery of our services,” he said.
DayJet is designed to provide services to outlying markets that have limited, if any, scheduled airline service. By offering per-seat, shared rides at “prices that are only slightly higher than full-fare coach,” DayJet plans to make on-demand air transportation practical and affordable, Iacobucci said.
The Eclipse 500 is being offered in configurations seating up to six. Maximum cruise speed is a brisk 375 knots at up to 41,000 feet, where cabin altitude is 8,000 feet. Range with four occupants is 1,280 nautical miles at high speed cruise, including IFR reserves. Its all-glass cockpit will be certified for single pilot operation.