FAA Approves World’s First Light Jet

The FAA has given the world’s first very light jet (VLJ) certification to Eclipse Aviation’s Eclipse 500. The aircraft company made the announcement at this year’s EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh. Eclipse expects full type certification of the 500 by August 30th, after which it can begin fulfilling existing customer orders. The company anticipates delivering more than 50 of the new aircraft before the end of 2006.

Eclipse Aviation hopes that the Eclipse 500 will do for the jet plane what Cessna did with its 172 for piston engine aircraft: make them affordable for a larger segment of the corporate aviation world. The sticker price and operating cost of the Eclipse 500 is significantly lower than other jets and comparable to some piston aircraft such as Beechcraft’s twin engine Baron G58.

Based on a three-year average cost analysis and 500 flight hours per year, the Eclipse costs about $373 per hour. A close rival, Cessna’s Mustang, which is also awaiting final certification before it goes into full production, will cost almost $560 per hour to fly. Though you’ll have to spend nearly two and a half million dollars to take one of the Mustangs back to your office, the Eclipse 500 is about a million bucks cheaper. One reason the Eclipse 500 costs so much less is that engineers have reduced the number of parts in the Pratt & Whitney engines by about half. Fewer parts also means less things can break and there’s less to maintain or replace.