Aeris launches innovative European aircraft dealership for Eclipse Aerospace


A US-registered Total Eclipse business jet.

Aeris Aviation emerges as the exclusive European dealer for the Eclipse 550 and Total Eclipse business jets.

There are a lot of advantages to being an official distributor to a manufacturer. You get marketing support and referrals and generally benefit from the association with the bigger company. But, in return, manufacturers ask for sale commitments and expect you to buy demonstrator aircraft.

This up-front investment is a big obstacle to smaller brokers and start-ups.

UK-based Aeris Aviation, the new European dealer for Eclipse Light Jets has come up with an innovative concept. As well as sharing the profits from aircraft sales, investors in the company will finance the demonstration model, which the company has purchased, and also get to use the jet when it is not being used to attract new customers.

Along with buying the demonstration aircraft, Aeris is also planning to pay deposits on a further eight Eclipse aircraft.

David Hayman, CEO of Aeris, argues that with a list price of $2.69 million, the Eclipse 550 is considerably less expensive than the Cessna’s Citation Mustang or Embraer’s Phenom 100.

“It’s an amazing jet,” says Hayman. “If you look a comparison table, it smashes the other two VLJs out of the water especially on fuel burn.”

Hayman’s background is in financial services, but he is also a keen pilot. He owns a small airfield in the south of England and flies a Cirrus SR22. “I have been tracking Eclipse for years and when Sikorsky – the world’s largest helicopter manufacturer – invested in it I went to them to ask who had the right to sell it in Europe,” he says.

Investor benefits

Hayman stresses that investors in Aeries are looking for a return and the aim of the company is to make a profit from selling aircraft. As well as this, there are two additional benefits for investors; firstly, investors are able to use the aircraft when it is available for the price of £1000 ($1,600) per hour and secondly, there are tax advantages for investing in the company.

Aeris estimates that his investors will be able to fly as up to 5 passengers from London to Cannes for about £4,000, compared to chartering a Mustang for £8000. Hayman has added a highly experienced chief pilot in Phil Clarke; once of Netjets, he is an ex Falcon 2000 and Citation captain and has over 40 years experience in aviation. He said the addition of Clarke is a huge boost to the company and believes that the chief pilot is key to the sales process.

The tax benefits are possible because the company has set up under the UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), which encourages UK tax paying investors to finance small companies.

This means that investors will also get income tax relief, capital gains exemption on any gains and loss relief if the investment does not return the amount that they originally invested. Hayman says that his investors are all UK taxpayers and paying tax at 50%. With the upfront relief and back end relief should the business fail and the combined asset backing of the jet which is owned by the investors, he believes the downside risk to investors is only 10% of their invested capital. He says that at the time of going to press, they are almost funded to capacity but still have a small amount of equity still available.

Selling Eclipse aircraft

After filing for bankruptcy in 2008, Eclipse Aviation was a company that many had written off. Now with a new board, a new business plan and a subtle change to the company name, Eclipse Aerospace is up-and-running again, largely thanks to a man named Mason Holland.

When Holland – like many others – lost his deposit on one of the original 550 jets, his plan was not to seek compensation but to form a new company. In partnership with Mike Press – the man who took Holland’s deposit on the non-existent aircraft – Holland set about acquiring the assets of Eclipse Aviation for $40 million and returning the Eclipse 550 to production.

Eclipse plans to deliver the first Eclipse 550 in 2013 and expects to produce between 50 and 100 aircraft per year.

Hayman is keen to stress that the Eclipse is more fuel efficient and has lower direct operating costs. “It costs less than £1000 per hour to fly – that’s less than my Cirrus per nm when you factor in the price differential between jet fuel and avgas,” he says. The new 550’s will be equipped with 3D synthetic and infra-red vision glass cockpit avionics; anti-skid braking and auto-throttle capability. For the price tag, there is nothing to match us – we are extremely bullish; we see light single turboprop and Cirrus owners looking to upgrade to the Eclipse as well as larger jet owners downgrading in size but upgrading in technology and massively reduced operating costs.

Another advantage of the 550 is its ability to operate from runways of less than 800 metres. “This opens up hundreds of airports around Europe that the other jets cannot get to,” says Hayman. As if to emphasise the point, Hayman has based the jet at Dunkeswell in Devon. He said, it is part of the sales process that we operate from a small airfield such as Dunkeswell. Our target market are individuals and executives who demand total flexibility in their lives; the fact that this jet can operate from extremely short runways gives that total flexibility that no other jet rival can match.

Eclipse forecasts they will sell 100 Total Eclipses in 2012 of which 17 will go to Europe.

The Aeris team

David Hayman, Chief Executive Officer
Hayman has worked in financial services for 26 years for a variety of companies including Norwich Union, J Rothschild Assurance and St James’s Place, before launching his own firm Luddington Broze, specialising in investing in structured products including film funds. He is closing Luddington Broze and will be focusing his efforts on Aeris as CEO and one of the company pilots.

Phil Clarke, Chief Pilot
Clarke has had a long and varied career in aviation having been an air traffic controller at Heathrow. A qualified CAA examiner, UK and FAA ATPL holder with type ratings for a number of business jets, was also a training captain on business jets.

Naomi Hayman, Company Secretary
Naomi is a recently qualified pilot and flies her own Cessna 172. She is married to David and will run the back office support, operations and administration systems, whilst supporting the sales team and exhibitions and events.

Neil Harvey, Marketing Consultant
Harvey is a young entrepreneur based in the South-West of England. He runs a number of internet marketing businesses. He will help to arrange meetings with prospective buyers and working on the company’s branding, profile and positioning.