Friday, November 17, 2006

the eclipse 500 very light jet

The Man with the 20s” invited the guys to attend a celebration for his firm’s friends, limited partners and portfolio companies last night. In addition to an abundance of beverages and food of all types (the sushi was quite tasty), the party held at the Hiller Aviation Museum had lots of gadgets. There were Xbox 360s everywhere, a black Tesla and, best of all, an Eclipse 500.

The Eclipse 500 is the progenitor of a new class of aircraft termed VLJ (or very light jet). Eclipse Aviation was founded in 1998 by an ex-Microsoft executive who wanted to make private jet travel more affordable. He raised more than $600 million from friends like Bill Gates to get his company started, and 8 years later his revolutionary aircraft has just been certified by the FAA and is starting production.

The Eclipse has been eagerly anticipated, and so far, more than 2,500 have been ordered. At a price of $1.5 million nicely equipped, the 6 person jet is much less expensive than anything else on the market. With small, fuel efficient engines, it is also more affordable to operate – about $1 a mile for fuel and maintenance costs.

It is manufactured with techniques borrowed from the auto industry. As Joe Cozza expained to us, frame and body construction is done by Eclipse using their patented friction stir welding (most planes are riveted) and Eclipse does final assembly, but all of the plane’s components are outsourced and shipped just-in-time. The results is a faster, lighter, eaiser-to-build plane, hence the “bargain” price.

Outside and in the airplane is beautiful. If you think new car smell is fantastic, wait until you experience new jet smell. Soft leather wraps the seats and the cockpit is packed with state-of-the-art electronics. The Eclipse has a cruising speed of 370 knots (425 mph) and a range of 1,295 miles. When you are ready to order, build your own jet here.