Monday, July 28, 2008

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

From: Vern Raburn
Sent: Monday, July 28, 2008 6:57 AM
To: _All Employees
Subject: Farewell

Dear Fellow Eclipsers:

It is with a very heavy heart and disappointment that I must send you this letter today. Effective immediately I will be stepping down as President and CEO and our Chairman, Roel Pieper, will become Acting CEO. As you can imagine, this development came as quite a surprise to me and it saddens me more then I can tell you to have to leave Eclipse. I think you know that I am no quitter. But I have not had any choice but to accept the terms of an agreement that provides Eclipse the first funds in a new round of financing that will take the company to a cash flow positive position. My departure was required under the terms of the agreement that was made with the debt investors to clear the way to secure the new funds.

I still very much believe in the dream that is Eclipse Aviation. I founded this company with a very big vision--to create a whole new category of aircraft with new technology. The idea is to create new markets and ultimately a new form of air transportation. This company and the people who built it with me are doing just that. Time and again, we overcame the many challenges that confronted us. Today we have delivered more than 230 Eclipse 500s and our next aircraft, the Eclipse 400 has been launched and is in development. This company did what the industry thought was impossible. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished and created.

To be successful going forward, we have to focus on operational excellence. We must achieve the product development, production and operations goals that we have committed to.

Today marks the beginning of a new phase of growth for the company and new leadership to go with it. Roel is a veteran executive and an extremely competent leader. He has been committed to this vision since 2003 when his company, ETIRC Aviation became our Eastern European partner. Today, after investing in the company and becoming our Western European partner as well, Roel is deeply involved with Eclipse and I am confident he will help grow the company and provide it with the operational excellence required to move forward. I will assume the Vice Chairmanship of ETIRC Aviation and provide counsel to Roel in the global expansion of this effort.

Thank you all for your commitment, dedication and enthusiasm in building this company. It is something we can all be very proud of. And I’ll be with you in spirit as you continue to prove that we can change the world of aviation.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Attention 'Die Hards'

Several members of the above, Vern Raburn's own term for long suffering position holders, have been commenting to me (and others...) about the dire state of affairs since they finally gave up waiting for an aircraft, and tried to recover their $150,000 deposits. Some have already appointed lawyers and headed to the courts, while others remain hopeful of resolving the matter directly with Eclipse.

Updated 23rd July at 20.14 hrs, GMT.

Since this post went live, I have been in contact with the original author, who tells me he had posted his comment to a 'Members Only' blog, and did not wish to have his words available in a public arena. As I have no desire to increase the pain which is all too familiar to those unfortunate enough to be in direct contact with Mr. Raburn, I am happy to comply with his request and have therefore deleted the original content of this headline post.


Many, many other comments from others in the same position have come to my attention in the past few weeks, which I outline below in my own words.

Almost all those who took the opportunity of taking a refund (rather than a position on the ConJet) have had similar experiences. Despite there being no mention of the need to use Eclipse supplied forms, any request for a refund which did NOT arrive at EAC using the appropriate paperwork was ignored. When the correct paperwork was submitted, the company decided to delay the return of funds until the contracted 30 days had passed.

Ah, you enquire, when this clock start? Not, it would appear, when the forms arrived at EAC. Oh, no. The company started the clock when it opened the package, read the forms, confirmed they were filled in correctly and THEN passed the request on internally. In at least one case, this took 8 days, from the date the courier company got a signature for the package.

Now it gets interesting. Several position holders got annoyed (as you would expect) at getting this type of run around. While some were dealt with in an appropriate manner, others were passed from one harassed junior to another, all the time getting more and more agitated. After several weeks of being messed about, a few extracted promises that money would be returned on the 19th of July. That's four days ago now, but what's that if you have waited up to EIGHT years for your aircraft.

So the latest, latest, bang up to date news is....

Without fail, just in time for Oshkosh, money will be sent out on Friday next, the 25th. I'm not holding my breath, but I would hope that for once, and against all previous experience, Vern Raburn delivers what he promised.

In summary, I will convey to you all the sense of frustration that the original author expressed, when he requested I delete his comments. He would still buy the FPJ, at $2.1 million, in it's current condition.

But not from Vern.

That is a telling comment, and should be taken very seriously. This man has waited YEARS for the product he paid a substantial deposit on, and has given up on Eclipse, not the aircraft.

One last time, don't forget your 'Top Ten Shortcomings at EAC', by emailing your top five to me. I'll collate the results later this week and publish the 'final vote' afterwards.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

New voices and a wider audience

A little anniversary took place yesterday. When, by some quirk of fate, you lot 'elected' me by continuing to post on this, the NG version of Stan Blankenship's original blog, I never dreamed that so many headline posts (32) or individual comments (4,738) would flow from that fateful date (16 February) a mere 6 months ago to the day. Thank you all most sincerely for your support and encouragement over this period.

I am delighted with the response so far to the 'Top Ten Shortcomings at EAC'. The idea is that each of you email me your top five and I will collated the results, using that list as the basis for a submission to the DOT Inspector General. That officer is charged with investigating the process by which Vern got his Type Certificate and Production Certificate for the E500, known here as the Fisher Price Jet.

One small word of caution. Although we all agree that Vern Raburn IS pretty much an anchor at EAC, it's too easy to focus on individuals, rather than the specific, non conforming processes or components that the DOT IG will really be interested in. That's what I think we should provide, from our collective perspective.

Although, for the record, Vern is 'winning' by a mile...

So keep those votes coming, headed 'Top Ten Vote' or something similar and I'll do a count towards the end of next week.

We should also welcome many new voices, both those who post directly on the blog, and those who email me on Many bring perspectives on, and draw attention to, the darker corners at Eclipse Aviation. Thanks to you all for participating.

I have been aware for some time of at least 3 people who have been unable to extract their deposits from EAC. Recently the 'Geiger Excavating' case blew the lid off the area, and raises some interesting points. Why did Vernicius the Magnificent risk the suit, when a simple $150,000 wire transfer would resolve the issue? After all, he has a huge order book, doesn't he? My view is that he is afraid that giving deposits back now will generate a 'run on the bank' which would provide conclusive proof that the 2,700 orders line is what we always believed it to be. A myth at best and, at worst, a lie to fool the gullible. By forcing customers to use the courts, he delays this inevitable event for 3 to 6 months, if he is lucky.

The inbox provided further insight this past few days into the murky world occupied by those unfortunate position holders referred to by Vern as the 'Die Hards'. Actual aircraft, as well as those yet to be lashed together, can be transferred between victims, sorry, prospective owners, for a very modest fee, by Eclipse Aviation. But there is trouble brewing, even in this, the heartland of Verns' supporters. No one can actually shift these birds at any price right now. As an example, it appears that a recent divorce case in the sunny south east of America listed the value of a fully paid delivery slot at the end of the year as 'nil'.


And another thing. Fred, our resident European and Russian correspondent, posted something that caught my eye. I like his style and complete lack of respect for many of the sacred cows of capitalist culture, so herewith (slightly edited) the bit that appealed to me. It's from the previous thread and was as good a summary of the current state of play as I could wish for.

What is EA500 ?

a big toy

- with a very limited capacity
- a cost of use which is far too much for what you CAN use it for
- only slightly faster than a prop
- far more expensive than a prop (hint for Baron95 :something useless , even at 1 $ , is still too expensive if it useless ! )
- with a range far too short to make a difference
- at a buying price which is a joke
- with a quality of product which is laughable ...
- a service which laughable ...
- from a firm which is laughable ...
- Governed by a guy which is laughable ...
- and perspectives which are laughable ...

one can have all the fallacious arguments of the world to try to justify liking the FPJ ...
(green, efficiency, whatever) but at the end it is ONLY THAT, you like it or you don't like it ...

On rational basis, it is just a NO-GO, a joke, just hopes no one will get hurt in process ...

Well said Fred! Sometimes it helps to have a rational person in the crowd, one who yells 'The Emperor has no clothes', and reminds us what this blog is about.

The press are all over poor Vern now. I get at least one query a day from journalists who find 'us' very easily due to the high profile of our blog. One in particular continues to lead the field and you can read her latest piece here. As usual, Karen (I really should spell her name correctly this time) Di Piazza at CharterX Industry Headline News has dug out a very interesting nugget. Seems the TC for the FPJ is unique in one more way. It was issued to Vern on a Saturday. This begs the question, why the rush? Could it be that pressure was applied from somewhere in the FAA chain of command? I know what I think....

I was away at sea for a few days, and so could not respond in my usual fashion either to emails or the blog. It can be quite exciting on the Med at this time of year, with the Mistral blowing up to force 7 and a sea state that kept me on alert (to say the least...) for hours at a time. In conclusion, don't forget to email those 'Top Ten' votes, fly (or sail) safe and stay tuned for further news of our very own FPJ.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Tales of woe, from one too many

As some of you are aware, your humble custodian is also responsible for monitoring the blog email address,, which continues to provide a steady stream of information, insight and 'observations' from those people who have found themselves orbiting Planet Vern. I'm pretty sure that's how he sees himself and I KNOW that's the way I see him, in a 'what planet did you come from, Mr. Raburn' sort of way.

Lately, I've also taken to phone calls, usually at very oddball times (for me) and normally with those of you who have been kind enough to support the blog in so many ways. I also naturally continue to do some research in my own, amateur manner. Must be the nosey Irish bit of me leaking out. Or maybe it's just the smell of the 'dead rat' that I get around EAC.

Anyway, lots of incoming over the past few weeks, which I put to one side as Karen Di Piazza's excellent article was in the works. I wanted that to have it's own space on the blog, which I hope everyone found useful. So herewith the 'voices' which I've heard from (and talked to) over that period.

First, a contribution from our resident satirist, Black Tulip. It's important to note that BT is very careful in his writings to poke fun at the key points. Read it carefully, it is worth it....


Albuquerque, NM - July 3, 2008 - At a press conference today, Eclipse
Aviation provided additional details on the Federal government's approval of
the Eclipse 500 Very Light Jet (VLJ). President Vern Raburn explained,
"When we embarked on this project ten years ago we wanted to ensure the
Eclipse 500 met the highest standards used by the United States government.
Driven by our passion for disruptive technology, we began to think outside
the box - we sought a new paradigm."

"We were immediately concerned as we examined the charter of the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) - to promote and regulate aviation. We grew
worried over an inherent conflict of interest in this dual role. The Food
and Drug Administration (FDA), on the other hand, is charged with ensuring
the safety and efficacy of the products it approves and oversees. This
struck us as a much tighter standard and an approval we would be proud to

Raburn continued, "We interviewed pilots who flew early prototypes of the
aircraft and noted they reported a range of post-flight responses including
enhanced sense of well being, mild euphoria, arousal and a slight
hallucinogenic reaction. We discussed this with high-level FDA officials
and they agreed to undertake the long process of testing and approval."

"As many are aware, most new medical products are initially tested using
laboratory animals. I am pleased to say the FDA allowed us to bypass this
step. This explains the fact that the Eclipse 500 is the only VLJ approved
and recommended by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)."

"Our human clinical trial was extensive. During the early risky phase with
Williams engines, we used only lawyers. Later, general aviation volunteers
were randomly selected to receive conventional treatment (flying a 1975
Cessna Citation 501) or experience the novel therapy of the Eclipse 500.
The FDA allowed us to cut this trial short on compassionate grounds as it
became clear that the Citation pilots were not experiencing positive

"As approval approached we had many discussions with the FDA on the
classification of this product. was it a medical device or a pharmaceutical?
I like to think of the jet as the 'Viagra of the Air' and my plane is
painted blue. The FDA is still mulling this over as medical devices and
drugs are subject to different recall procedures on the infinitesimally
small chance we were to have a problem."

Raburn concluded, "The aviation media and later the main stream press just
assumed the aircraft was approved by the FAA. We should have cleared up
this confusion earlier and hope everyone appreciates a product deemed safe
and effective by the FDA. We think a healthy competition between government
bureaucracies is good."

Thanks Black Tulip! I really like the bit about using lawyers for flight testing in "... the early risky phase with Williams engines", but I digress. Our next voice is one of our 'working pilots' who has to use the FPJ to earn a living. The following email reached me late last week. You can feel the frustration, even through the edits I've done to protect his identity. It's headed

"NG Software Gremlins"


Yep, the latest and greatest contribution from Vern and his buddies is working out great.

Several of our planes are fitted with NG avionics. They have generated "Ghost Like Gremlins" that are difficult to chase down. The Gremlins live primarily in the software. To my knowledge, these Gremlins don't mean major harm. They are annoying enough however for the planes to file in with the other hangar queens.

A long time ago in my career, I was told that there are, in fact, 'Gremlins', and that one should always try to keep them happy. But beware as behind every Gremlin, is a Fifinella. Fifinella's are the female of the Gremlin species, and are much more deadly.

The above definition comes from Jordanoff's Aviation Dictionary Copyright 1942.

To conclude at Eclipse there are more Gremlin's in the wood pile than there is wood.

'Hanger Queens' is a phrase that's come through to me from more than one owner and/or pilot, but Fifinella is a new one. Sounds to me that Captain Chuck Nealy, who managed to land the FPJ in Midway a few weeks ago, had a personal interview with one of the Gremlins, and very nearly a fight with Fifinella....

Turboprop_Pilot asked a very interesting question a few days ago on the last thread. You will recall that the Inspector General at your Department of Transportation is asking some searching questions about our very own Eclipse Aviation. TP posted the following, very appropriately, on the 'Glorious Fourth' when everyone should at least TRY to remember the founding principles of your great democracy.

My suggestion:
That the blog develop a comprehensive set of shortcomings involved in Eclipse’s development and certification of the E500 and send it to the DOT IG as an “amicus curiae”. That we provide in depth backup of these short comings and eliminate the hyperbole and invective.

I strongly agree. Anyone who wishes to do so, email the blog with their 'top five' shortcomings and I will sort out the most popular ones. In about two weeks, I will make a 'headline post' of the top TEN. These will be selected on a properly democratic basis, from the emails. We can kick it around for a few days, and then agree a) who to send it to and b) how to identify ourselves as the source. I will of course be happy to stick my own signature on the letter, in any event. This is something we owe to the GA community, so get cracking at those keyboards.

Next a small, cautionary tale for those of you who are lucky enough to be married, and wish to retain that happy status. This email reached me in the past few days, has a few xxx's to avoid identifying the 'happy couple', and was headed

"Eclipse and marital discord"

Hi Shane,

I've been following the blog since it was in Stan Blankenship's hands and wanted to commend you on your work with it thus far.

NxxxEA just left xxx after more than a week AOG. The owner and his wife were no longer on board. It arrived xx June and needed a tire change, which turned into a nightmare. Aircraft departed for xxx a couple days later and had to return to us after HAL reported what I believe was a stick-pusher failure, which I understand makes autopilot unavailable. The local mechanic's experience with Tech Support at Eclipse was embarrasingly comical. He was given instructions like "try to move the wires around." I'm an AMT and sometimes I do "move the wires around" but that's on a 40 yr old plane with some rather simple systems. The mechanic in xxx is a very experienced IA and pilot. We both fly aircraft for another local company. Eclipse ended up sending a service team to work on the plane and it is finally on its way home (the intended trip had to be cancelled entirely).

I spoke with the owner and his wife and there was very clearly some marital discord as a direct result of the FPJ's unreliable nature. The woman asked if I knew of anyone in the market for an E500. Another disatisfied customer. I hadn't formerly thought that relational fallout was part of the Eclipse ownership experience. It was truly sad to see. The financial loss from the trips disruption and ultimate cancellation was substantial (Operating costs from the xxx US to the xxx US, crew cost, lodging, meals, etc. Plus the cost of lodging in xxx which I don't think could have been refunded at such a late date. Plus the cost of tickets for Airline travel back to xxx. Plus the cost of flying the plane back to xxx with no one on board, but the relational cost is something that might be harder to pay.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

Another tyre, another marriage, and both busted. Seems Vern is 'disruptive' in more ways that we thought.

Folks, I think we have enough for three or four 'headline' posts, but it gets that way around here. The 'Office of the Custodian, Eclipse Aviation Critic NG' needs to get back to some real work. Remember to email your 'Top Five Shortcomings', with that as the subject line, as soon as you can, be kind to your families (they will pay for the retirement home...) and keep those posts coming.