The Eclipse 500 is a marketing name for the Eclipse Aerospace EA500, a small six-seat American business jet aircraft originally designed and manufactured by Eclipse Aviation and later upgraded and sold by Eclipse Aerospace.
The Eclipse 500 became the first of a new class of Very Light Jets when it was delivered in late 2006, and won the prestigious Collier Trophy in February of that year. The aircraft is powered by two lightweight Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofan engines in aft fuselage-mounted nacelles.
Production of the Eclipse 500 was halted in October 2008 due to lack of funding and the company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy on 25 November 2008. The company then entered Chapter 7 liquidation on 24 February 2009. After a lengthy Chapter 7 procedure, Eclipse Aerospace was confirmed as the new owner of the assets from former Eclipse Aviation on 20 August 2009 and opened for business on 1 September 2009. In October 2011 Eclipse Aerospace announced a new version of the aircraft, the Eclipse 550, which replaced the 500 in production, with deliveries starting in 2013.
In total, 293 Eclipse 500/550 aircraft have been delivered to customers.
The Eclipse 500 is based on the Williams V-Jet II, which was designed and built by Burt Rutan‘s Scaled Composites in 1997 for Williams International. It was intended to be used as a testbed and demonstrator for their new FJX-2 turbofan engine. The aircraft and engine debuted at the 1997 Oshkosh Airshow.
The V-Jet II had an all-composite structure with a forward-swept wing, a V-tail, each fin of which was mounted on the nacelle of one of the two engines. Williams had not intended to produce the aircraft, but it attracted a lot of attention, and Eclipse Aviation was founded in 1998 to further develop and produce the aircraft.
The prototype and only V-Jet II aircraft was obtained by Eclipse Aviation along with the program, and was donated to the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 2001.
Adaptation of V-Jet II design
Eclipse 500 flight test aircraft at Mojave Air and Space Port
Eclipse 500 at East Midlands Airport
Parked at Colorado Springs Airport in April 2008
Eclipse 500 at the 2010 Oshkosh Air Show
Eclipse founder and former CEO Vern Raburn was one of the first business executives at Microsoft. Consequently, Bill Gates became a major stake-holder in the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Eclipse project. The VLJ concept has been pursued by a number of manufacturers, and because the V-Jet II had been designed around one of the primary VLJ engines, Eclipse believed it was an ideal design to refine and market.