Eclipse Celebrates Opening of Facility; Pilots To Learn To Fly Jet at Center

If you buy an Eclipse 500 jet, you are required by the FCC to learn how to fly it.

And now there is a place that can be done.

Eclipse Aviation cut the ribbon on its 41,500-square-foot Customer Training Center at the Double Eagle II Airport on Thursday. The center will be used to train pilots in flying the $1.5 million microjet that the company began producing this year, said Vern Raburn, the company's chief executive officer.

Raburn said that to become certified to fly the Eclipse 500, qualified pilots are required to take an initial two-week course and annual brush-up training.

"The training facility will become the center for all our customers," Raburn said.

Eclipse officials would not reveal the cost of the new building.

The Customer Training Center is the first building in what will be a 150-acre Eclipse Aviation campus where the company eventually will manufacture its aircraft. The company currently is running its production at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

Raburn said the next building on the Eclipse campus will be a customer service center, which the company will break ground on within 10 months.

The two buildings point to a very important fact, Raburn said.

"It's nice to have customers to serve," he said.

Eclipse has delivered 21 of its jets at the end of June, said Andrew Broom, a spokesman for the company. More recent delivery figures will be released at the end of September with the company's quarterly report to investors.

The company has about 2,500 jets that have been ordered but are yet to be built.

Eclipse's Customer Training Center eventually will have four simulators, although the building currently has one in operation. On Thursday, visitors were able to take a look inside the simulator and even have a hand at "flying" an Eclipse 500.

The building also has four classrooms and eight training rooms.

Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said at the ceremony that Eclipse presents important economic opportunities for Albuquerque and New Mexico. The new center will employ about 100 people, and Wilson said it's the first step in the construction of the Aerospace Technology Park at the airport. Officials hope the park and Eclipse will become a magnet for other companies and highpaying jobs.

"Getting to this point has been the result of a public and private partnership," Wilson said. "It's the kind of project you want to be involved with."