Eclipse Aviation president Vern Raburn says "nearly 100" Eclipse 500 buyers had traded in their twinjet order slots for the new Eclipse 400 single-engine personal jet as of 3 June, less than a week after the company began offering the new aircraft to existing customers.
"We recognised that with the price increase of the Eclipse 500 it might be out of the range of their ability," Raburn told Flight International. Eclipse launched the $ 1.35 million Eclipse 400 personal jet on 30 May, simultaneously with an announced 41% price increase for the Eclipse 500, up to $ 2.15 million from $ 1.52 million. Raburn is also offering existing customers a $ 125,000 discount on the final delivery price of the new jet providing deposits are received before the 25 July, when the orderbook will be opened to the public.
Based on the Swift Engineering-built concept jet design that Eclipse unveiled and flew at the 2007 AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the four-seat Eclipse 400 will be powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615F turbofan and is designed to cruise at 330kt (610km/h) at altitudes up to 41,000ft (12,500m).
The aircraft is to have significant commonality with the Eclipse 500, the most drastic change being the switch to a composite empennage for the personal jet, says Raburn. Remaining the same will be the wings (without tip tanks), nose, fuel system and landing gear, says Raburn, and odds are "nine out of 10" that the entire pressure vessel will be a stir-friction welded structure as well.
Raburn says development of the new aircraft will be "serial" as opposed to parallel, based on lessons learned. "The first 18 months will be worse than watching grass grow," he says. He expects first flight on the new jet to take place in late 2010 despite already having more than 100 flight hours on the concept jet.
To maximise economy of scale, Eclipse plans to use as many existing suppliers as possible on the new aircraft, with the exception of new vendors for some structural components, which Raburn says could be announced in mid-2009. He adds that a "kit type" assembly line similar to what the company is planning for the Eclipse 500 in Russia starting in mid-2009 could also be applicable to the new aircraft. Eclipse plans to begin delivering the personal jet in late 2011.
Raburn says Eclipse 500 customers will have 90 days to request a refund on their deposit since the company did not hold to its contract price. However, owners of the first 500 aircraft, which were bought at the lower prices, now have aircraft that are "more valuable than they were before", he adds.