Cessna, Eclipse Fight For Europe

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Eclipse Seeks JAA Certification...

The dogfight between Eclipse and Cessna's Mustang for the light jet market continued last week, but this time with a European backdrop. Both companies were trying to spin some news for themselves out of the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland. In a nutshell, Eclipse announced its planes will be equipped for European Joint Aviation Authority certification, and Cessna announced it, too, has customers in Europe. Eclipse applied for JAR-23 certification in February and expects to get it in 2006. A major requirement is that the aircraft be equipped for Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums that are already required for any operations from 29,000 to 41,000 feet, something that won't happen on the other side of the pond until January of 2005. Eclipse is also putting standard autothrottles in its mini-jets, claiming to be the least expensive ($950,000 in 2000 dollars) plane to be so equipped.

...Cessna Reins In Mustang Customers...

Of course, Europe is a big market for bizjets of all sizes but it might be even more suited to the so-called personal jet than North America. With the relatively short distance between major centers and the clogged airspace around them, the market just might be ripe for fast little airplanes that can zip in and out of reliever airports. That's what Cessna's European customers are telling it, anyway. While Eclipse was making equipment announcements, Cessna was crowing about adding to its European customer base for the $2.3 million Mustang, due out in 2006. MAC Aviation, of Zaragoza, Spain, will buy five Mustangs for corporate, charter and organ-transplant services. On those sorts of missions, MAC expects two people in the plane with an average flight time of 1.5 hours. Of the 300 Mustangs ordered so far, about half are from Americans and the balance is from overseas.

...717 Bizjet Unveiled

And at the opposite end of that spectrum, Boeing, which already offers its 737 as a bizjet platform, unveiled its Boeing 717 Business Express at the show. The 717, which is thrice removed from the DC-9 Hugh Hefner used as his, um, corporate jet, is struggling as Boeing's answer to the regional jet. The company is obviously hoping the corporate set can see some advantage to flying its employees in this version, rather than the RJ configuration. "A company with significant and regular employee movement between two or more key business facilities would be a candidate for a 717 ..." said spokesman Thad Dworkin. Instead of knees-around-the-ears seating, the business version would be configured for 40 to 80 passengers in business or first-class seating. It can also be equipped with workstations, meeting rooms, videoconferencing and full broadband connectivity. The company points out that keeping employees comfortable and productive while saving on accommodation and other travel costs will make economic sense to some companies. A bunny on the tail is extra.