Created: 03/12/2014 6:31 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Wednesday was a landmark day for New Mexico’s aviation industry – and for one company in particular. Eclipse Aerospace delivered the first of its brand new line of 550 light jets to the first customer. Eclipse’s CEO delivered some advice for Tesla Motors, too: Come to New Mexico – you won’t regret it!
But first the plane. They call the Eclipse 550 a “game-changer.” It’s more fuel-efficient, faster and much less expensive than its closest competitors. Mason Holland is the man who bought the bankrupt Eclipse Aviation four and a half years ago and rebuilt it. The company now employs 275 people at its plant at the Albuquerque Sunport. They are the people who brought the 550 off the drawing board and turned it into flying reality.
“We’re adding some staff right now,” Holland said in a hangar after a celebratory rally with Eclipse employees. “Probably about five or six percent more staff this year for what we’ve got going on and then we’re hoping to accelerate that growth through 2015 and 16 too. But the growth of staff is dependent on the size of how the order book grows and things like that – but it’s looking good.”
Fred Phillips, a business owner from Shreveport, Louisiana, is the first customer to buy an Eclipse 550. He spoke to the employees gathered in front of his glittering new plane.
“You guys are gonna be even more busy once these airplanes get out,” Phillips warned them. “You’ll have to build a hundred more this year!”
Actually, the second 550 is scheduled for delivery Thursday morning – to a South American buyer.
Meanwhile, Holland talked about Tesla Motors and the gigantic lithium battery plant the company is planning to build, possibly in New Mexico.
“I think Albuquerque is a great place for employment,” Holland said. “I think it would be a great place for Tesla and I think they’d really enjoy it and we’d love to have them as neighbors.”
New Mexico is one of four finalists for the new battery plant, along with Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. It will cost about $5 billion, and employ about 6,500 workers.
“I gotta be careful here,” Holland said. “I don’t want ‘em coming into town, taking my guys! We’ve got some of the most talented guys in the world right here in Albuquerque!”
New Mexico negotiators will undoubtedly be trying convince Tesla that our state has a trainable workforce easily big enough for Tesla and Eclipse and many other employees, too.