Monday, March 31, 2008

"I was wrong", Vern Raburn admits

April 1, 2008, 8.50 PST.
From our special correspondent, Seamus Shillelagh

At a hastily convened press conference in Eclipse Aviation HQ, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Vern Raburn, CEO and Founder of Eclipse Aviation, spoke out today of his frustration and shock at recent events. “During our cash call late last year, I was misled by my advisors into thinking that ETRIC was actually EPIC. I only realized the error when I went to a meeting recently and noticed the number of fuel stops. When I asked the pilot why, I found out we were flying over Russia instead of Oregon. This could not have happened with AvioNG, which of course will have integrated navigation and FMS, but won't be ready until Tuesday.”

Captain Zoom, recently promoted to Head of Corporate PR for Eclipse, was quick to point out that it was an honest mistake. “From FL150, which we were restricted to by lack of FIKI, central Russia looks very like parts of Oregon, and when we finaly landed we were met by people whom we could not quite understand. This seemed normal to me, but then the penny dropped when we went for a meal. That soup was something else…”

Mr. Raburn, well known for his outspoken views on many aspects of the VLJ market, continued to complain about his bad luck. “When I confirmed that ETRIC was not in fact EPIC, I called my lawyers immediately, informing them of their mistake and seeking an arbitration meeting. What upset me most was that the real benefits of a merger with EPIC were clear to me, and would have resulted in us getting access to the Williams EJ-22 for our ConJet” At this point, Captain Zoom interjected to remind Vern that he should have said ‘Concept Jet’, but we all understood what was meant. Vern continued, “The other big plus with this would have been EPIC’s experience with composite structures which are clearly the way to mass produce airframes in a cost effective manner. Stir frying (Friction Stir Welding, reminded Captain Zoom) has not delivered and we are in the process of finding someone to sue”

A noted critic of Eclipse, known to his supporters as ‘Black Tulip,’ interjected from the floor to point out that Eclipse were, in fact, the main supporters of FSW in aviation, whereupon he was promptly ejected from the hall.

At this point, a number of disgruntled customers, sensing their opportunity and ably supported by groups of suppliers and staff, rushed the entrance to gain access. As the protestors, carrying placards and handing out leaflets to the 5 of us journalists who had turned up, entered the conference broke up in disarray. The press ‘pack’, considerably outnumbered by the angry mob, retreated to the safety of a local bar, from where (after several calming pints of Guinness) this report was filed.

Friday, March 28, 2008


The blog email,, has been humming. For those of you following the blog closely I've hinted in the past couple of days at some of the key points, without going into details. I wanted to cross check and verify what was being said, in a sincere effort to make sure that we get as clear a picture as we can of what is really going on.

While there are good things being said about the company, it's been hard not to notice the overall tone of what I am seeing. Below please find extracts from some of the emails over the past couple of weeks. My input is in plain old black, there others are in colour to make it clearer which is which. Anyway, herewith the views being expressed.

From a customers standpoint
"You guys think Eclipse will never make any money, you just don't understand. Here's how:
(1) Build a (somewhat) attractive plane
(2) Design in unreliable systems
(3) Sell a "covers all" maintenance program at $325/hour
(4) When (2) works as planned, tell the customer to bring the plane to ABQ. At $325/hour income to Eclipse
(5) Kinda-sorta fix the problem at ABQ
(6) Rinse and repeat
For higher profits, get the plane to fail so that it can't be flown to ABQ. Tell the customer that if a non-Eclipse trained A&P touches the plane the warranty is void. Then send a fast response team to f*** up the plane, at a mere $5,000 charge. Count your money.
Let's see the critics refute that plan. And yes, sadly, I am a customer!"
The man has clearly been keeping up with our blog! Remind me to buy him a Guinness...

Customer report again, with a listing of 'gremlins'
"There are quite a few little gremlins. Stick pusher warnings, avionics bus warnings, fuel gauge faults, etc. This distilled from multiple customer reports, not all on my plane. The incompleteness of JetComplete is surprising customers, since Eclipse told everyone that AOG coverage was part of the deal, not a $5,000 charge."

A final customer input
"I know the Avio NG upgrade does not contain much of the promised functionality (i.e. no GPS, no Skywatch, no approach charts)."

From the suppliers standpoint
"... a senior (Eclipse) manager told us that "unofficially" they are going to be putting Garmin 400's in every aircraft. Two weeks ago, in a teleconference with Eclipse, we were told that we were going to interface with the Garmin 400 until a future certification.
This may give you some idea of Eclipse's relationship with Garmin. Eclipse is also going with COTS technology. No special or extra work on the part of Garmin."

And another one
"I believe that IS&S has made it prohibitively expensive to make changes. In the meantime, Eclipse is allowed force the hand of their "old" suppliers until all original contractual obligations are met. We want to get those contract guys after our next certification for Eclipse which will fulfill all our original comtractual obligations.

I asked one of them about the current status of older E500's and got this reply
"I do not know what the plans are for the Avidyne-fitted aircraft. Because we have been "forced" to make changes that will make our systems no longer (backward) compatible with Avidyne, I suspect all aircraft will have to be updated. I should add that the Gamin GPS "is the permanent temporary fix" (Eclipse's words) until they get the moving map and other navigation/FMS issues ironed out. By "permanent temporary" we suspect they hope for it to be temporary, but it has the potential to be permanent."

Finally, from a staff standpoint, where I've x'd out anything that (clearly) identifies the person. My heart goes out to the workers on the ground in ABQ, and this is only one of a number of these mails that have reached me.
"We (my wife and I) had been relocated here from xxxx this past Summer.
I'm looking for a way out. I (all xxxx crews) were recently transfered into the xxxx hangar under new management. I'm not at all happy about this. ....I really enjoyed working in xxxx, where I was originally assigned. I had the opportunity to at least cross-train with other people during any down time. This had been part of my job description. I miss it. ....I now get to prep for xxxx during any down time. Transfering's apparently not an option, it's been refused repeatedly. ....I just wanted to hear what you think. I feel so strongly about getting out."

Its not hard to notice some common elements here. Eclipse bullies everyone, over promises, under delivers and then issue threats when asked simple questions. This leads to several, undesirable outcomes for all parties. Customers feel hard done by and tell their peers, which reduces the pool of prospects for the E500. Suppliers stick to the letter of their contracts and quietly seek work from other companies. Some of them will 'no bid' future contracts and this will lead to increased costs. Staff look elsewhere for work and Eclipse have trouble filling postions, which delays deliveries.

So, that's my lot for this week. You all have an amusing weekend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Business Ethics, 101

Yet another vendor is dumped, and the lawyers gather for the usual contract dispute. How many more will be put through the meat grinder that is Eclipse, under the inspired direction of our favourite Collier Trophy winner?

Electromech Technologies, until very recently listed on the Eclipse website as a key supplier, is taking action against Vern to recover their dues. The chosen battleground, using the same legal firm as Hampsons', is that well trodden path to arbitration. Again.

Word also reaches me that that Aerazur, suppliers of key parts of the de icing equipment, might be in the dark about E500 progress towards FIKI. Which strikes me as a little odd. One would think they would be central to the final push for FAA certification. I'm pretty sure that when the airtaxi companies that form the core of Verns' fan club hear this, they will be muttering darkly about promises broken. Unless Aerazur are also set to join Electromech, under the bus.

Sources close to Eclipse tell me that Garmin ARE in 'discussion' with Vern, who HAS requested the G1000. Poor Mr. Raburn is alleged to have been told to, and I quote, 'pound sand' (whatever that means....) on the G1000, but they will extend their involvement in AvioNG. I just hope they get paid cash in advance for their efforts.

Over this side of the pond, we have regulators coming out of every nook and cranny you can possibly imagine, and then another half dozen you can't. We have people to check that bananas are not too straight, and another crew to make sure that they are not too bent. Cheese can only be described in certain ways, ice cream is not what you think it is and don't get me started on dried meats. What this breeds is an imperial detachment at the top of the European civil service, called (without any sense of irony) the Commission. 'They' have all the power, and are invunerable to democratic questioning or the powers of reason.

EASA are very much in the mould of the Commission, so when word reaches me that EASA are not even beginning to think about the remote possibility of looking at the E500 UNTIL everything (and I believe this means what it says) is completed and certified by the FAA, I get worried about the Russians. As a matter of fact, I think the Russian deal is in real trouble, even without all the delays that seem inevitable when Vern is involved.

So, I'll finish my thoughts for today with the following. It's kept me going for more years than I care to remember and allows me to look everyone I deal with, supplier or customer, staff member or contractor, straight in the eye. Doing business is, at the core, very simple.

Only make promises you that can keep. And keep the promises that you make.

Anything else is a con trick.

Have a happy Easter break, and blue skies to you all. 

Monday, March 17, 2008

A house divided, against itself...

I've noticed a few common themes on the blog over the past few days. The discussion has been healthy, civil and generally very informative. As time is free here today (it is our National Holiday after all) I sat down and did a little digging.

It must be a year since I had a good look at the Eclipse Aviation web site. Lots of things have stayed the same, but several interesting areas have opened up.

In the 'Ownership' pages, you can order at $1,595,000 and get yourself the " production position in Q1 2010" or click the button beside it and "Get your Eclipse 500 sooner through our brokerage service", where you can buy one for $1,379,000. For delivery in Q2, 2009. That's right. Save youself 9 months of waiting and $216,000. Since both aircraft are 'base prices' that would seem to be a 'no brainer'. Unless you are an EAC saleman, trying to tie up a deal on that 'next delivery position' in 2010....

Also in the Ownership section, consider these little jems. "...friction stir welding is approximately 10 times faster than manual riveting..." or the one about PhostrEx, which "... is the first new engine fire suppression system to be approved since 1954." All display the Eclipse mantra, which maintains that technology is the answer to all problems. Finally, "The Eclipse 500™'s aggressive pricing is only possible thanks to a design philosophy emphasizing high-volume production."  Which is fine, if you can get the rate you desire, which our friends in ABQ have failed to do, or even LOOK like they might achieve.

Check out the Partners page. The first one listed is Aerazur who ".... manufactures the de-icing system in Normandy". Thats right, the're the ones who, I'm sure, will be blamed for the delays in getting FIKI. Especially since they are French! Further down the same page, you will note that there are a few "Business Partners" listed. No one will be suprised to see DayJet and Linear Air, but who is OurPLANE and what is the realationship with Vern?

The Con Jet is back on the front page, but is still, offically, just a "...tool for evaluating the emerging single-engine jet marketplace." Mind you, it's got perfromance data, a photo gallery and an invitation to register your interest. Some 'tool', which cost the company lots of hard won dollars and generated enough heat from impatient E500 customers at the lauch to cause Vern to change tack afterwards....

The really funny bit is in the top of Ownership. For a company that seeks to 'darken the skies' to use the following line as an appeal is good. Owning an E500 is "Great for being part of that .0003 percent of the population who can say, “I own a jet.” That's really disruptive. Be one of the many people we need to buy one of our jets, so that eveyone can have one, but you can still boast about how exclusive the club is.

I feel like Groucho Marks on this one. "I would never join a club that would have me as a member"

Have a great St. Patrick's Day. And, if you are flying, stay off the green beer...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Truth is often stranger than fiction

Couple of items from the inbox, which (to say the least) worry me slightly.

Several reports reach me about the FAA and Eclipse. The first concerns FAA "Supplier Control" audits, recently held at Eclipse. Seems no one in ABQ was too bothered about measurement of incoming parts. Except the FAA, who appear to have found not one but a whole load of non conforming items. Remember, its Eclipse who determine what 'conformance' is, since they provided the suppliers with the original specs.

It gets worse.

The local FAA office has (allegedly) been told to route all Eclipse reports through Washington, where 'someone' is 'filtering' any damaging or disruptive elements out.

The outcome? Sloppy procedures in Eclipse go on, and (it appears) FAA types, as well as concerned aviation professionals, get very unhappy. Mad enough to contact me, anyway....

And another thing.

If the bits don't fit together too well, they tend to fall off. I got this in the past 24 hours, have been unable to confirm it (I do live in Ireland, after all....) but thought people should be aware of the issues that are at stake. Apologies in advance if it I'm wrong, but when aircraft safety is at risk, I think it's worth reporting it.

A friend of a flight instructor reports the following incident from a taxi way @ Boca Raton, FL:

The weather has gotten bad so everyone was lined up waiting for IFR filing and clearance. I was in an Piper holding behind Eclipse Jet who was number one for takeoff. After receiving the IFR instructions, reading them back, the pilot in the Eclipse was given the OK to taxi on to runway. As power was applied the turbines spooled up and the aircraft started moving. As the aircraft creeped along making its turn to align itself with the runway heading, all of a sudden a loud crash was heard as the ENTIRE ENGINE NACELLE came shooting off across the runway landing way off in the grass! The student I was instructing asked in all seriousness, "is that supposed to happen?" I laughed and said "No."

The Eclipse pilot apparently sheepishly asked for a taxi back to the FBO. I wonder how many "slight" issues like these have been seen in usage of the grand Eclipse Jet.

Now, I don't know about you but if it's true, that story sure scares the hell out of me...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I begin to wonder...

FlightCentre, the 'offical' record keeper reports this week as follows:-

Eclipse 500 aircraft deliveries came to a halt last week.
The FAA data for the last week shows no Eclipse 500 aircraft deliveries.
Eclipse has delivered 19 Eclipse 500 aircraft so far this year.
This is less than half the planned deliveries of 20 per month for Q1.

Gunner, with an EPIC LT due to start building promptly (and interested in people to help out...) says:-

If the recent slowdown in ramp-up continues, my bet is I'll be flying an LT before Ken fires up his Eclipse for the first Solo. I think I put my order in Sept 2007.

Note to new members, Ken Meyer is alleged to have an Eclipse position in the s/n 150 range.

Several sources, who used the blog email (sorry, I just have to plug it again!) to contact me, have indicated serious issues around EASA certification for the E500. The principle problems would appear to be with both the untried nature of Friction Stir Welding in this particular application and the stability of the avionics as it relates to the single pilot rating.

We are all aware of the 'fog of war' around AvioNG and Flight Into Known Ice (FIKI) which continues into March 2008!. The Russian 'adventure' has also been the subject of many interesting questions.

So I ask myself, what do the customers, depositors, suppliers and staff at Eclipse make of this?

Are they happy?

I doubt it.

Are they fully informed?

Not if the emails I've seen and posts on this blog are to be believed.

Is the production ramp enough keep the cash rolling in and the show on the road?

Well I'm sorry to have to put it like this, but I know what I think.

And they are not happy thoughts....