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Eclipse Aerospace laying off employees

eclipseALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eclipse Aerospace began laying off workers Friday at its Albuquerque production facility, service center and headquarters in response to lagging demand for its twin-engined very light jet.

“We won’t provide a number or a percentage,” company Ed Lundeen, senior vice president of business operations, told the Journal. “The people we laid off today did nothing wrong. We laid off good people. It was an economic decision.”

Eclipse had reported roughly 200 employees in Albuquerque prior to Friday’s layoffs, which extended to the company’s aircraft service center in Chicago and administrative offices in Charleston, S.C., as well, he said.

“This is strictly a function of the economy,” Lundeen said. “Our reduction in workforce is the result of market conditions where general aviation has not recovered as quickly as other parts of the economy. To that effect, we have put in place a restructuring of our business to reduce costs but continue our operations.”

“It is our understanding that Eclipse has a plan to reabsorb staff, once their market conditions improve. In our agreement with Eclipse they only receive rental discounts when they are actively hiring. We anticipate they are still on track to hire 100 people, for a total of 275 employees, by December of 2015, as that is part of our contractual agreement with them,” Gary Oppedahl, city Economic Development Director, said in a statement.

The business jet sector of general aviation, where the Eclipse 550 jet fits in, delivered 678 planes in 2013, half the 1,313 planes delivered at the sector’s peak in 2008, according to the Washington, D.C.-based General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Last year’s 678 deliveries were only marginally up from 672 in 2012.

Eclipse Aerospace started in 2012 to slowly return to production of new aircraft after inheriting a fleet of about 260 jets from its predecessor company, the now-bankrupt Eclipse Aviation. The new company’s Eclipse 550 jet represents an extensive upgrade of the original Eclipse 500 model, but within the same aircraft.

Eclipse Aerospace formally delivered its first new 550 jets in March.

Company officials have been active in trying to expand its market buy lobbying for a possible defense contract to supply the 550 jet as a training aircraft for aspiring U.S. Air Force pilots. A final decision on whether that market will open up could come by the end of the year.