Eclipse Repair Center Underway at Albany Airport

COLONIE, N.Y. - The new Eclipse Aviation factory service center at Albany International Airport is taking shape, with structural steel and roof trusses bolted into place as the $8 million project moves toward completion by summer.

The service center is one of at least seven nationwide that will provide maintenance and repair for the Eclipse 500, a very light jet that will carry up to six people and costs about $1.52 million. Eclipse also will operate centers in Gainesville, Fla.; Van Nuys, Calif.; and at its headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M. Other sites haven't yet been identified.

Eclipse has 2,500 orders for the new jet, from air-taxi companies, businesses and individuals. It delivered its first plane at the end of December and has 39 aircraft in various stages of comple tion, said Mike McConnell, vice president of marketing and sales.

Airport spokesman Doug Myers said construction workers plan to enclose the Albany service center so they can work on the interior during the colder weather. The Albany County Airport Authority is financing construction, and Eclipse will lease the building and apron space over 10 years with two five-year options. Over the 20-year period, Eclipse would pay the Airport Authority $11.9 million.

The new center received $1.6 million in state money.

Eclipse plans to employ 30 people.

It also may attract air-taxi services. The chief executive of Linear Air, a Lexington, Mass.-based company that has ordered or taken options on 30 of the small jets, said last year that offering service in Albany might be feasible, "since we anticipate having our aircraft in Albany on a regular basis."

The smaller jets will likely be popular with business travelers, who can avoid hub airports and fly to smaller airfields closer to their destination. They'll also avoid traditional security checkpoints.

Officials at Albany International Airport also would like Eclipse to have a sales operation here, and for owners to base their aircraft here. They support state legislation to exempt general aviation aircraft from sales tax. While the measure last year gained state Senate approval, it failed to pass in the Assembly. The measure was just reintroduced in the Senate, said Brian Shaughnessy, communications director of the New York Aviation Management Association in Albany. "This really can be a good business driver," he said. "We've seen it in other states."

Now, many purchasers are basing their planes in Massachu setts or Connecticut, two neighboring states with sales tax breaks for general aviation aircraft.

"People don't appreciate that it's very easy to get around in an aircraft," Shaughnessy said.

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