ECS Demos Eclipse Jet
Night Flight to Boston Leaves Good Impression
Last week, I had the opportunity to take an Eclipse 500 private jet flight from Hanscom Airport in Bedford, MA to Boston Logan Airport. While the flight was very short, it did finally, give me an up-close, first-hand, in-flight experience aboard an Eclipse 500.
Bedford Hanscom Airport is located approximately 20 miles from the Financial District in Boston, which is either a 20 minute drive or an hour and 20 minutes, depending on the time of day. It is a smaller regional airport with no commercial airline activity, so any weather-related delays are minimized with only corporate and private traffic to deal with. It is also the home for the Air Force’s 66th Air Base Group. The car service, this time Boston Coach, dropped me off at the front door to Signature BED where I quickly checked in with the receptionist who directed me to the waiting aircrew for our night flight to Boston. The Signature facility at Bedford is a bit smallish; however it is quite comfortably appointed and expertly staffed. I’ve been there several times to meet clients either arriving or departing, and have always been impressed with how professional and helpful the staff has been; kudos to Signature there. I also had a chance meeting with an old college friend who works for Airport Operations with Hanscom Airport. He was kind enough to escort me around the ramp while I shot some video of the jet’s arrival earlier in the day.
Boston Logan International Airport, on the other hand, is a much larger and more complex facility. Hundreds of commercial flights plus scores of private aircraft operate daily in its airspace. The Signature facility is located at the northernmost edge of the airport property, which depending up on the runway in use can lead to lengthy departure/arrival taxi times. The lounge is quite a bit larger than BED’s facility, and a bit more nicely appointed. Signature BOS also has an X-ray belt staffed by TSA employees as seen in the commercial terminals. State Police troopers were also present providing over-watch security. The indoor staff and ground personnel again showed amazing professionalism and attention to detail. All areas of the facility were spotless and everyone seemed truly pleased to be at our service.
You may remember hearing the hubbub a couple of years ago about a new class of aircraft known as VLJs (for Very Light Jets) and their anticipated impact on the air-taxi industry. While the timing of their arrival to the market (just before the financial market plunge in 2008 and subsequent black eye given to private aviation by congress) was unfortunate, their capabilities are proven and real. The Eclipse is just one of these VLJs (Embraer Phenom and Citation Mustang are others) and after having ridden along on a very short flight I can assure you that the classification is right on the money.
With an interior cabin length and a cross-section approximating that of a mid-sized SUV, the passenger capacity is limited to 2-3. In this particular case it was just me, and although the jet can be legally flown by one, there were two pilots. After brief introductions to the crew at which time they checked my photo ID, I was escorted to the jet, where I quickly boarded while the crew finished the last second checks, started engines, and began to taxi. On the way to the runway, I took a few moments to really look around the cabin – it didn’t take long! Two of the passengers seats were removed leaving the two rearmost, one of which I occupied. The interior was sparse, but tastefully appointed with leather seating, overhead lighting and air controls, and good sized windows, which gave the jet a larger feel. With the two forward seats absent, I had all the legroom I could want. The all-glass cockpit was really something to see especially in the dark of night. Quite complex, yet thoughtfully laid out. After a brief taxi-out at BED past much larger aircraft, we were cleared for departure. With just the three of us, the jet quite literally leaped into the sky within what seemed like a very short runway length. In fact this jet regularly operates from KLOM, Wings Field, in Philadelphia which is just 3700’ long. We were vectored out west away from the city to join the trail of aircraft heading to BOS. After about 10 minutes we were flying back east, in line, and making the approach past the Boston skyline. Ambient noise from the jet engines was a bit loud, but certainly not uncomfortable. For a small jet, it had surprising stability during the decent through swirling winds and a 10 knot crosswind. The approach and landing was quite smooth, with good visibility for the passengers through the front windscreen until touchdown.
Overall, I would highly recommend this aircraft for very short-range missions. Charters in which you are not travelling more than 300 miles such as Boston to New York or New York to Washington, DC, with one or maybe two others, would be the best scenario. Anything more than that and the aircraft lacks the performance to adequately measure up. But for those regional day-trips where jet speed and the ability to get into a ridiculously short airport is essential, the Eclipse is the perfect aircraft for the job!
Many thanks to BlueBell Air for the opportunity to fly along, and to Dan and Bruce for their time and professionalism.