Groups Vie to Keep Eclipse 500s Flying

James E. Swickard james_swickard@aviationweek.com

Yesterday a group of Eclipse 500 owners announced they had negotiated a non-binding letter of intent with Hawker Beechcraft (HBC) under which that company's service network would provide maintenance and upgrades for Eclipse Owners Group (EOG) members.

The two parties are now negotiating a "definitive binding agreement," according to an EOG statement. The group added that it will "negotiate with HBC to provide the needed maintenance and support services to keep Eclipse 500s flying in the event the EOG purchases the assets of Eclipse Aviation."

Previously, FAA issued a bulletin advising Eclipse 500 operators that they could fly their aircraft as long as the jets remain airworthy, but that once unable to get replacement parts or receive approved repairs, the airplanes would be grounded.

There are several groups, including EOG, in contention for Eclipse Aviation's assets, but if none bring approved parts production back on line, it's only a matter of time until all the aircraft become unairworthy.

In addition to EOG, others expected to bid on the bankrupt OEM's assets include:

* New Eclipse Acquisition LLC, a start-up company founded by Phil Friedman of Wichita-based Harlow Aerostructures;

* an Eclipse owners' cooperative, founded by William Herp, president and CEO of Concord, Mass.-based Linear Air, which operates four Eclipse 500s. The cooperative would take over technical and parts support, as well as upgrades, for the EA 500 fleet.; and

* Eclipse Jet LLC, founded by Eclipse 500 owner Mike Press and deposit-holder Mason Holland, and including minority partner Roel Pieper, who had been Eclipse Aviation's CEO and head of its largest shareholder at its end.

Eclipse Jet also yesterday announced its own Eclipse Service Network (ESN) organization to establish a chain of third-party service centers across the United States. Brigadoon Aircraft Maintenance, part of a new FBO complex planned by at Chicago Executive Airport, was named as the network's first center. It reportedly has Eclipse-trained mechanics on staff and intends to modify existing aircraft for flight into known icing, among other things. Eclipse Jet said it is also in discussions with third-party service providers in Europe.

The bankruptcy court has not yet set a date for the asset auction, but that could occur shortly.

Photo: Eclipse Aviation

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