““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Eclipse auction fuels instant gratification
Already a symbol of a revolution in personal aircraft, Albuquerque-based very light jet maker Eclipse Aviation is setting out to change how people buy airplanes. Fulfilling a promise made seven years ago-long before the first Eclipse 500 rolled off the assembly line-the company recently put one of its early production aircraft on the Internet auction block, using technology from eBay.
The auction of serial number 000038 was open only to potential customers who had placed $5,000 refundable deposits. (Some of those deposits had been placed between 2000 and 2002 and had been accruing "Eclipse Dollars"-to be deducted from the amount of a winning bid-at the rate of 1,000 per month.)
While the initial offering price for the Eclipse 500 was $995,000, low serial numbers have been changing hands at upwards of $1.6 million. As such, bidders could not have been expecting a bargain. Bidding for number 000038 began at $1,633,945 (95 percent of the aircraft's current invoice price plus optional equipment).
Fourteen bids later, the VLJ sold for $1,833,945 to Morten Wagner, the 35-year-old Danish owner of a European online dating service. For that price, Wagner got an Eclipse 500 LX edition; his tuition in the manufacturer's Type Rating Pilot Training program; and the right to jump to the head of the line of position holders and receive immediate delivery of the aircraft.
For Wagner, who currently flies a Cirrus SR22, that last benefit was the most important factor spurring his bidding. "Waiting for three years? I would do it if I had to," he told BJT, "but if I can grab one now, I would much rather have it." Wagner said he would have bid as much as $1.9 million for the aircraft, which he plans to fly home in January, after he is trained and the Eclipse receives its European avionics upgrades.