Eclipse 500 Certification Delayed

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Blaming supplier delays -- not regulatory issues -- Eclipse Aviation late last month formally announced a delay in certifying its Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ). Even though the Eclipse program is one of the best-financed and best-managed to come from a start-up company in recent years, the delay was not a surprise: Eclipse officials were telegraphing the postponement during the recent NBAA annual convention. Last month's announcement -- moving the planned certification date from March 2006 to late in the second calendar quarter of 2006 (read: late June) -- will obviously delay customer deliveries. "We have always been honest and forthcoming about our challenges, and today we are sharing an issue that will affect the timing of the Eclipse 500 certification program," said Vern Raburn, the company's president and CEO. "Over the last few months, we have been working with our suppliers to recover their schedules. Unfortunately, an in-depth assessment of the new schedules has made it clear that these slips will force a delay in our overall certification effort."

Saying the company was clearly disappointed in the unavoidable delay, Raburn attempted to put the best face on things, noting, "[T]he big picture is that we are heading into 2006 with a test fleet of five flying aircraft, our first TIA from the FAA in hand and more then 850 flight hours under our belts." Even so, the delay's impact on operators basing their business plans in whole or in part on availability of large numbers of the new VLJs was not known. Those fleet operators include Linear Air, JetSet Air Ltd., DayJet, Aviace and OurPlane.