Saturday, August 30, 2008

Some words from staff, suppliers and customers

We've all had a little time to absorb the shocks from ABQ in the past 12 days or so. I thought it was right to share with the blog some of the email I've been getting. On the 'numbers' question, before you ask, I'd like to say this. I'm pretty sure that total accuracy on EAC will be as hard to achieve as agreeing the numbers who took part in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg.

So, with that 'official health warning' herewith some thoughts and the supporting emails.

The blog email started to hum, big time, after Vern's shock announcement at Oshkosh on that fateful Monday. Various people were spotted coming and going at EAC and lots of rumors started flying around. I got caught up in myself and made a serious error in 'firing' several people. So I've been careful to avoid that this time, and have several sources, in almost all cases, for the information below.

The first one comes from a senior staff member who reacted to the layoffs by sending me a long and very informative email. Herewith a flavor of what was written. It goes to the heart of the matter, from someone who was there.

"My heart goes out to the group of good workers who were laid off yesterday. Due to the incompetent attitudes and behaviors of the Executive Staff many friends and good people are wondering what they will do next to provide for their families. I know that many who are still employed at EAC are feeling guilty because they were not chosen to be let go this time and in the back of their minds the question is occurring are they next?

I knew after about 6 weeks that Todd Fierro was the wrong man for this job. He was trying to apply DOT policies to a vehicle that works in two dimensions and not learning about the FAA requirements. He was making decisions that were just stupid, he was not consulting his staff of Managers who could have turned the tide around so that there would not have been the massive lay off there was yesterday.

20 Year Mechanic is right about all he has written in the blog. But most of I respect him for his ability to stay the course to make the EAC500 a safe and wonderful craft. I hope for the sake of all involved that they can see farther down the road and project a good future for EAC and for the good of New Mexico, we need to keep the doors open. There needs to be a general house cleaning with the Exec. Staff and not the "worker bees." You cannot lead by pushing, leaders have to lead from the front and the Exec. staff does not.

Mr. Raburn tried to make his craft fly before it could crawl. Again a waste and this attitude has impacted my home and my friends!

I can only hope that at some point that all the unqualified VP's are moved into mere manager positions so that they can face the general population that they angered over their inept and cowardly actions towards their charges, the employees of Eclipse, investors, and the purchasers of the EAC500. No responsibility has been taken by any one of those sons and daughters of snakes, the Executive Staff.

Karma has a way of catching up, if not in this lifetime most certainly in another."

This email was signed, and the person concerned has given permission for its use in this context.

Now we should move to the staff lay off. EAC have a company line, which says two things. One is that 650 people were laid off. The other says that 38% of the total employed were laid off. Everyone who has contacted me says that between 750 and 800 individuals got pink slips. EAC say that 1,100 positions continue in the company, when almost everyone says there are less that 900 actual people left.

How do we reconcile this? The straight answer is that 'we' can't. EAC have a poor track record with numbers. The state of New Mexico is compromised in any investigation under WARN legislation. It has after all, financial interests in the company, in several ways. I'm pretty sure the truth will out eventually, but right now, the picture remains clouded.

A short snippet from one of the suppliers:-

"EAC is returning $40 million in deposits. EAC needs to pay suppliers $60 million and that does not include volume reconcilliation since they did not achive the number of aircraft they forecast so you can add 10% and call it $66 million. They say the USA brand is "dented" so most future sale will be from Russia/Europe etc. The UBS financing guy doesn't even have an investor lined up and this is not a done deal but they feel real confident they will find a real jackass of a company to invest in this mess... OK, my wording. "experts" tell them they can do 2/day... All suppliers said bullshit to that. The ramp down was due to funding....of course. It takes 6000 hrs to build an aircraft and they need to take it down to 4050 hours. They say there are 1000 firm orders and 1100 employees. the bright news was that no one was cocky and they begged to keep suppliers on board. Everyone had a NEW attitude, a NON Vern one....but get this, they won't commit to keeping us on the E-400...that pissed some suppliers off!"

This is representative of the word from suppliers and is indeed a sad one. Many are owed multi million dollar sums and most now only deal with EAC on a 'pre pay' basis, and are hoping that something will come up to resolve the debt. Roel has offered those with bills outstanding the by now standard '6% interest' on their money, but everything depends on the UBS funding, of course. They even offered people who turned up for the conference a ride in the FPJ.

There is no truth whatsoever in the rumor that suppliers picked straws to see who HAD to fly in it...

Customers continue to have real issues. Simple service requests are not being dealt with, parts take forever to arrive, the slow down in production announced by EAC has impacted the delivery schedule and therefore the possibility of collecting the 60% '6 month prior to delivery progress payment'. And thats for the people who have stayed the course. For the very first time, reliable information has reached me on the number of deposit backed orders that were actually placed with the company. After all the dross is discarded (DayJet etc) there are just over 900.

This from another senior staffer:-

"We did get $$'s on all orders except DayJet (in the latest messaging these orders are gone), and for most of the 900 it is a 100K+ deposit. Bad news is that with almost 300 refund requests those full deposits are due back to the customer....."

Yes, I know it seems high, but remember that many people took two, three, four or in one case I'm aware of SEVEN positions. It's also over 8 years since Vern started taking deposits. Remember also that the total money collected is hard to calculate, since the first deposits were less than the later ones. Most seem to have paid about $150,000. So, how many people have asked for their money back?

As you can see, I'm told that about 300 have sought their money back. A total of '$45 million' (many paid a higher deposit) is required to keep these people happy. Roel has also stated that 'some' of the depositors have changed their mind and have asked to get back in line for a delivery. I suspect that these are people who have a very early position, and are looking at paying the price increase and getting an FPJ, or very probably loosing everything.

Other items include ongoing rumblings about senior staff, some of whom are moving 'sideways', a veritable feeding frenzy of recruitment events around ABQ and ongoing press coverage of the Ice Blue suit. I'm also hearing that one supplier in particular has been awarded '$7 million' after due process. Another couple of hits like that and the company will need serious cash, real fast.

I think I've covered a few of the bases there. Enjoy your 'Labour Day' long weekend, fly/drive/sail safe and have fun with your families and friends.


Monday, August 25, 2008

A short history of EAC, and Vern Raburn's future?


August 23, 2008 – Denver, Colorado – The Democratic National Committee announced today Vern Raburn has joined Barack Obama’s campaign team as a key adviser. Raburn, chief executive officer of Eclipse Aviation until earlier this month, was asked for comment, “I wasn’t surprised to get the call from Mr. Obama and I was pleased to accept his offer. Barack mentioned that the Republicans had brought influential business leaders into their campaign and thought he should seek high level advice too. Carly Fiorina, the highly successful CEO of Hewlett- Packard is now on the John McCain campaign team.”

Barack Obama, with his arm around Mr. Raburn in the aisle of the campaign aircraft, offered the following, “Vern started telling me about the wonderful little jet he invented. There’s never been a plane so capable and I had to get more advice from the man who made it possible. I am all about ‘green’ and this little baby seems like the most efficient airplane possible. Vern tells me that the fleet of 250 Eclipse 500 jets has the lowest kerosene consumption and smallest carbon footprint of any comparable aircraft. The statistics show that as a group they are hardly burning any jet fuel at all. This has to be a compelling and disruptive technology.”

Raburn followed up, “I couldn’t have said it better than soon-to-be President Obama, but I would like to comment on Eclipse Aviation. I’ve read that the company just had a big layoff, affecting employees worldwide. I don’t’ understand this as I left only a few weeks ago and everything was going fine. I am shocked that the new management could have destroyed the company so quickly. And all those layoffs… the toll on my friends, their families, the mortgage payments and good jobs left behind… it’s just too much. It was a heartless act that only someone of the Republican persuasion could have done. I’ll bet the new management of Eclipse supports John McCain – it is a disgrace.”

“Well, I’m going to do the best I can for my main man – Barack Obama. I’ve been consulting with the business heroes I’ve admired during my career. I’ve put together a business affairs advisory team consisting of Bernie Ebbers, Jeff Skilling, Andrew Fastow, Richard Scrushy, John Rigas and Dennis Kozlowski. We haven’t been able to schedule face-to-face meetings yet so we hold telephone conference calls.”

Raburn leaned over to this reporter and whispered, “After a winning business career I’ve got my eye on a Cabinet post. I’d make a real good Secretary of Transportation… don’t you think?”

Thanks Black Tulip, I think that's cracking! The timing is perfect, as Vern is 'gone' but not forgotten. As usual, I'll remind our readers that the tulip mania peaked in the Netherlands during the 1630s. The black tulip was the most sought after, until found to be biologically impossible.

Some of our newer readers may not be familiar with our extended history. FlightCentre, our 'statistician in residence' posted this. It clearly deserves greater visibility, so here it is in full.

When the blog was asked in June 2007 to predict the number of aircraft Eclipse would deliver in 2007 and 2008, the answer came back exactly correct for 2007.

For those who may not have been around last year, the average of all the projections from naysayers to die hard supporters and the prediction of Black Tulip both came to the same answer, 99 aircraft.

After all the dust settled, this turned out to be exactly the number of aircraft that Eclipse delivered in 2007.

A lot fewer people participated in predicting E500 deliveries for 2008, but it looks like the blog is again going to be substantially more accurate than any prognosticator from Eclipse and will probably get the answer correct within 10% or so.

Meanwhile the official Eclipse plan in June of 2007 was for 216 deliveries for 2007 and 747 deliveries for 2008. Off by approximately a factor of two for 2007 and a factor of 5 for 2008.

Of course, there was at least one member of the blog who asserted that Eclipse would deliver exactly zero complete aircraft in 2007 and 2008 that met the original specifications. That position also turned out to have been exactly right.

Who would you trust when making a bet on the future of Eclipse?

Meanwhile back in Q2 2007, the blog suggested that Eclipse’s long term success was totally dependent on DayJet’s success and that DayJet’s business model was fundamentally flawed and doomed to failure. No DayJet, no Eclipse. It was the blog that noticed that the DayJet aircraft were flying less than 1 hour per day per aircraft on average.

At the same time, the blog suggested that Eclipse would launch a new airplane to distract depositors, investors and the media from the issues associated with the E500.

There were those on the blog that suggested that perhaps the Avio NG FMS wasn’t “complete” as originally announced and that it might be some time before it was certified. It was the blog that was first with the news that Eclipse would abandon their commitment to Avio NG’s GPS and FMS and switch to Garmin 400Ws.

It was the blog that noticed that aircraft retrofits were taking weeks longer to complete than what was promised by Eclipse.

As for sources of collective wisdom, you will find blog posts from aerospace and mechanical engineers, avionics software developers, DERs, QA and reliability engineers, and production line staff, many of whom have worked on the E500. You will find experts in aircraft production techniques from welding to riveting to composite technology. You will find posts from flight test pilots, Eclipse 500 pilots and owners, aircraft pilots of many levels of experience from single engine piston pilots to ATPs and military pilots with tens of thousands of hours. You will find posts from people who work for companies conducting Eclipse training and Eclipse aircraft management. You will find posts from people who seem to have read and understood every line of the FARs including the latest interpretation of A/C 23.1309 1c.

Of course, some of the most colorful posts have come from the ex-customers and ex-depositors. There are posts from lawyers who understand how the court system works. There are posts from HR folks who understand employee rights. There are posts from people who have known Vern, Roel, and Ed for years. You’ll find CEOs of many successful companies, investors, and board members. You will find posts from air charter operators, FAA certification personnel, A/P mechanics, Eclipse vendors and Eclipse investors. There are people who remember why Eclipse made the design tradeoffs as far back as 1999. There are regular international reports from at least Germany, France and Russia. I’m sure I’ve left out many, many folks.

Of course, there are occasional posts from an itinerant, pub crawling, Irish ex-journalist who has a nose for a story.

Then there was Stan, who called it right from the beginning.

Thanks FlightCentre, that's a superb summary of where we have 'been' and how we got 'here' as is possible in so few words. But for the record, I've never been a journalist. Not good enough...

Many, many emails to get through. I've tried to reply to all of them, as fast as I can. Apologies if you have not had a reply, but trust me, it's not for want of effort. I'm working to 'digest' all of the news from last week, and will update you all as soon as I've got my thoughts in order.

In the meantime, anyone with information on the changes at EAC can contact me at the usual address:-


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hampsons, the FAA, the press and now this....

UPDATED FRIDAY 22nd August 17.49 GMT


Eclipse Aviation Targets Financial Stability as CEO Roel Pieper
Implements Operational Excellence Program

Company reduces workforce by 38 percent

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - August 22, 2008 - Today Eclipse Aviation(r),
manufacturer of the world's first very light jet (VLJ), announced a
reduction in workforce as a result of its operational excellence
strategy introduced by CEO Roel Pieper at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.,
July 28, 2008. Eclipse is reducing its workforce by approximately 38
percent which includes temporary workers and people employed less than
six months. The reduction is an effort to achieve financial stability
as soon as possible. Eclipse is laying off approximately 650 employees
affecting all departments and facilities including Albuquerque, N.M.;
Gainesville, Fla.; and Albany, N.Y. Eclipse's total employment remains
at about 1,100. The impact of this action will be a slowdown in the
production of Eclipse 500s through 2008. In 2009, Eclipse intends to
increase production back to previous levels and higher.

"In my effort to take Eclipse Aviation to the next level of growth and
sustainability, I am 100 percent focused on operational excellence and a
plan to achieve it," said Pieper. "Financial stability is critical for
this company and unfortunately, a reduction in workforce was necessary
to achieve it. I am confident this action will set the company on the
path to profitability so that we can continue to lead the very light jet

Eclipse will not be releasing any further information or conducting
interviews surrounding this press release at this time.

That's the official press release. However, I've have contradictory information. I believe EAC are trying to bend figures and 'make like' they're are going to continue with viable production capacity. This is difficult to square with what we know from Albany, IS&S and Hampsons. When you've been reading EAC press releases for as long as I have, you learn to 'parse' the words, then the phrases, then the sentences and finally the message as a whole. Note the careful use of words like 'about', 'approximately' and 'effort'. He's the CEO, and he is not able to tell the press how many people are going and how many are staying. And another thing. I thought all the 'temporary' workers were let go two weeks ago. While I know people have been hired (but not trained very well) in the recent past, I'm interested in how many that would actually add up to.  Finally, for this update, I understand that several contradictory stories are flying around ABQ. A 'standard' version has the total number of layoffs (total) at just under '800' today, and another '400' on Monday.

Original post below

I pretty proud of you lot. It's only two days since the last 'headline' and I can justify a new one.

First, a post from 'Forward Observer' which is a perfect example of what the blog is about. He manages to intertwine personal relationships and political attachments with a true focus on safety. For these reasons alone, it would deserve promotion to 'headline' status. However it's also a good story in it's own right.

Second, I bring you disturbing news from Grand Prairie, Texas. It seems that Hampson Aerospace, whom we last heard of settling their dispute with Vern, have decided to take their chips off the table and leave the game. This is very serious should EAC be able to resume volume production. It must also send a clear signal to other suppliers, as it will be a tad difficult to fly an aircraft without a tail.

Finally, there is an imbalance in our 'coverage' of the traditional media. Not all have followed the EAC line over the past decade. Several are notable by their balanced coverage, including AINonline and AVweb. Some comments I made yesterday would tend to paint all journalists in an unflattering light. This was plainly unfair. So, credit where it's due, and inform your future reading habits by how your favorite source behaved in it's coverage of EAC.

So to begin, the post by Forward Observer. A few of the links didn't work (for me) so I cut them and I've done a little tidy up on the spacing, but it's otherwise as it first appeared yesterday:-

Forward-Observer said

Well, the FAA’s press release, at

trumpets that the FAA is getting right on that pesky Eclipse 500 plane - you know the very first “Special Certification Review” team to prepare a report prior to the September Congressional hearing.

All should be well, everything is fine- “Move along, Move along, these are not the droids you are looking for” could be the intended message. The FAA leadership in Washington is hot the trail, and will make sure everything is just fine. The press release even says “Jerry Mack, a former Boeing safety executive, is leading an oversight team of seven FAA experts.” Is on the job.

Wooaa fellah. Who?

Jerry Mack?

Who is Jerry Mack??

Well, for starters, he’s not even an FAA employee.

And to be represented as a “Senior Safety Executive” might be a bit of a stretch.

You see, Jerry Mack, appears to be an amazing person to appoint to lead a “Special Certification Review” on behalf of the FAA. He’s not working elsewhere right now, and he’s a personal hand-pick of the Senior leadership of the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service to go look into this. Perhaps it was Mr. John Hickey, the Director of the Aircraft Certification Service, who may have chosen Mr. Mack for the job. After all, both previously worked for the Boeing Company.

I can see why Mr. Mack would be the person selected to take a look and see if the FAA was being fair in applying the rules to little ‘ol ECLISPE Aviation. What, pray tell, qualifies Mr. Mack to determine if the FAA applied the regulations properly, when it award a Type Certificate to the Eclispe 500? Well, let’s start with his recent employment. You see Mr. Mack wasn’t working for the FAA. His name does not appear in the employee web directory.

No, he’s an outside contractor that has been brought in to make things appear that All is Well. Mr. Mack previously worked for the Boeing Company. alright. But his most recent job title was not as an engineering safety evaluator. No, it was as the Vice President of Government Technical Affairs for several years.

In that job, his job was to make sure that the Government left the Boeing Company alone. He was paid some pretty big bucks to make sure that nobody from the Government could get too close to the Boeing Company’s secrets. Jerry Mack- Boeing vice president of Government / Industry Technical Liaison for Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Of course, Mr. Mack has had some other employment recently. It turns out Mr. Mack spent a good deal of time at the Aerospace Industries Association. Mack was elected as Aerospace Industries Association AIA’s Civil Aviation Council, and remained there for a period of time. His contacts among the head honchos at the FAA proved very valuable. It appears he is well know and well connected. He’s an ideal man for the job.

In fact, here’s a photo of Mr. Mack hard at work in his job with the AIA. He’s shown here at the Paris Airshow with his arms around a couple of beauties:

(AIA Membership Manager Trish Ward, left, Jerry Mack in the middle, and Membership Assistant Vice President Michelle Princi on the right, at the Paris Airshow in 2005)

Now, you might remember some of the interesting things that happened in the time frame following Mr. Mack’s election to the AIA council. You see, it was in that time, Mr Mack, the vice president of Government/Industry Technical Liaison for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, found a few friends in Washington. It was shortly thereafter than another fine executive, namely one Ms. Marion Blakey, found a wonderful new job offer waiting for her over at AIA.

Remember that one? When the FAA Administrator jumped ship to go to the AIA and pick up a six-figure salary? Of course, some might say that’s politics getting into the mix. You might be right. After all, Mr. Mack has paid his dues. In fact, he donated handsomely to George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, and to John McCain’s run in 2008. Apparently $250 bucks to McCain 2008 is all that’s needed to cement your appointment to a contractor position, to investigate if management of the FAA was ok in it’s issuance of a type certificate. 

Fair and balanced safety review?

Or political hack, former Boeing government liaison executive, hired by another former Boeing employee (Hickey), with bone fide political donations and connections, and now paid to say that everything is fine?

Maybe. Maybe not.

We report.

You decide.

Whew. There is a man with an opinion and the ability to express it.

Next Hampson Aerospace. They are located in Grand Prairie Texas, where they have been making the FPJs' vertical stabilizer, horizontal stabilizer, rudder and elevator. On Wednesday they 'closed their doors' and told the staff to contact HR at a nearby sister company for further information. After Albany, then IS&S and now Hampsons, who will be keen to continue working with EAC, even if they manage to get that critical funding? I'm told they are looking for something in the region of $200 million dollars. Pretty steep ask in the current climate, don't you think?

I'll finish with a reminder not to treat all journalists, or the media outlets that employ them, the same. There are a number who have called this company to account from day one.

Things are moving quickly. I'll try to stay in the loop as much as I can but remember you can always get me by email at


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Close to a Total Eclipse?

There are so many topics which I could cover on this thread. The secondary market is a possibility, with many strange practices going on, or the departure of Vern and the resulting aftershocks. But I think the main focus should stay with the FPJ and the factory that 'builds' it.

First, the aircraft. Most of you will know that have an excellent 'Alerts' service, which provides timely notice of important aviation matters. They issued the following earlier today:-

"P&WC and Eclipse Investigating PW600 Carbon Concern
Pratt & Whitney Canada, manufacturer of the PW610F engine that powers the Eclipse 500 very light jet, and Eclipse Aviation are jointly investigating the cause of a carbon buildup problem that resulted in an inflight engine shutdown in early August. Although details of the occurrence are unavailable as no report has yet been made to the FAA or the NTSB, P&WC was “made aware of this,” according to a P&WC spokesman, “and we are currently collaborating with Eclipse to investigate the issue. Initial findings indicate that carbon appears to form in the combustor during high-altitude operation with full cabin bleed selected. Both teams are pursuing the investigation at this time. However, it is important to note that there are no recommended changes to maintenance or operational procedures associated with the PW610F engine.” The PW600-series powers the Eclipse 500, Cessna Citation Mustang and nearly certified Embraer Phenom 100. To date, the Eclipse fleet has accumulated more than 50,000 operating hours since late 2006, according to the spokesman."

Now that is significant. Might there be a design issue with the FPJ installation, as there is no word of a similar event with the Mustang? We know that the switch to P&W, after the 'first flight' with Williams, was done in a rush. Since one of the key arguments in favour of the FPJ over turboprops with broadly similar mission profiles is high altitude fuel burn, any restriction here could be catastrophic to resale values. Plus any remedial work, which may be required, would have to join the queue for FIKI, AvioNG etc.

Next the company. I continue to get emails expressing serious concerns about assembly methods. What we are talking about is the original build quality on the floor, and how safety issues that arise during the build process are handled. Most of you by now will know that there are significant concerns about how the Production Certificate was issued by the FAA and the continued adherence to a 'standard' by the company. A normal ACSEP (Aircraft Certification Systems Evaluation Program) inspection of the factory was due to being this week, but has been postponed to 'late September'. Needless to say, this delay was not initiated by the FAA. There has been much speculation in the 'community' as to why this happened, but two potential 'answers' have surfaced. Take your pick:-

1. Eclipse plan to suspend their PC for a period, and they've said as much to the FAA.
2. Eclipse have major influence in Washington, allowing them to delay this 'cast in stone' event.

And another thing....

We know that Eclipse are in two minds about their production, as their most recent 'Media Alert' is pretty vague on the Russian factory. In fact, it makes no mention of the planned new facility, saying only that "Eclipse also confirms it has no intention to move its production facilities outside of the United States in contrast to some current media speculation." Strange. Yes there is/no there isn't another factory. Wish they would make their mind up.

Speaking of which, I would like to draw your attention to the excellent Russ Niles, of We've already had a part of this on the blog, but it's worthwhile increasing its visibility here:-

"In case you haven't been following the news, the U.S. wants Russia to leave Georgia alone and Russia wants Georgia to leave Abkhazia alone and the whole thing came to a head because some Russian diplomat blew a tire and couldn't change it himself. As I write this the Russians have troops and tanks and guns in Georgia and despite some kind of agreement they're looking like they might hang around awhile and, if necessary, sink a few more ships. I wish I was making it up."
Later he continues:-
"Then there's Eclipse. A Russian factory appears to be a major part of the plan to make the company profitable but maybe Roel Pieper, et. al. should investigate friction stir welded tanks instead. Seems to be a market..."

Read the whole article, it's worth it. For our American readers I should state that here in Europe, we are really worried what might happen if the Russian Republic takes on another one of the 'former' USSR states, and the EU decides it has to respond. If you think OPEC have a stranglehold on oil, just watch what happens to the European market if Russia decides to restrict supplies of natural gas.

UPDATED Wednesday 20th August 12.50 (GMT)

As noted earlier in several comments, this actually was released just prior to my post. I've put it up here for maximum visibility.

"Lawmakers Set Hearing Over Eclipse 500 Jet Type Certificate
By Karen Di Piazza

This morning, the oversight and investigations staff of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee confirmed to this journalist that a hearing is set for Sept. 17, at 10 a.m., regarding the Federal Aviation Administration's oversight and issuance of its Eclipse 500 type certificate. The committee, chaired by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., ordered the Department of Transportation's inspector general's office to audit the FAA and present a briefing in regards to the FAA's possible rush of granting Eclipse Aviation with its full TC on Sept. 30, 2006. FAA-employed aircraft certification engineers and flight test pilots say they were prevented from properly completing their assigned certification and safety responsibilities, before the FAA issued its TC to the plane maker. Committee spokesperson Jim Berard said that both the IG's office and oversight and investigations unit of the committee "have gathered enough credible evidence to warrant a hearing."

"We don't have a confirmed witness list at this point and aren't likely to have one until prior to the hearing," he said. "We expect the DOT's IG's office and some former Eclipse employees to testify. We have invited FAA and National Transportation Safety Board officials and will likely invite Eclipse management."

Although certain people are invited to the hearing, Berard explained that the committee has the power to subpoena those who refuse invitations.

Words begin to fail me here. The more I learn, the sadder I get. Well done Karen, you've nailed another key piece of the story that will be 'Eclipse, how NOT to run an aviation company.'

Finally, a brief word from the unfortunate suppliers. They have been informed of a significant cut in production, which will result in little or no requirement for new shipments. The word is that there are enough parts on hand at the factory to finish 31 more FPJ's, after which no one can predict what will happen. And the funding round is not going well.

I have a feeling we won't have long to wait for more. Stay tuned....


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

As promised, reports from the Front Line

Too often on the blog we spend time discussing issues of high finance, low dealings and dodgy sales promises. But we must always keep in mind the people who actually work on the aircraft. I speak of course of the EAC line workers, as well as the pilots/owners and their mechanics.

First, from the factory. This snippet might help explain why the aircraft have so many issues in the field.

"The first thing that I noticed at Eclipse Aviation is the almost total lack of training in the tasks that are needed to manufacture an aircraft. Eclipse has a program with the state of New Mexico in which the state pays 44% of a workers wages for 6 months if the person is qualified. Eclipse gets the money and I assume that Eclipse is responsible to train the worker since there are training forms that as supposed to be signed off and turned in. The problem is that the training never gets done and everyone that I have spoken to about the forms say, "What training?". They say, "I am not going to lie to the state of New Mexico and say that I am getting training when I am not getting that training. What should one do? One could lie about the training and risk problems in the future, tell the truth about the lack of training and risk being fired by Eclipse, or just do nothing. Most people chose to just do nothing."

Lets be clear about this. If you don't know what you are doing, how are supposed to do it right? I feel sorry for the line workers who have to put up with this sort of treatment.

These next set of comments come from a mechanic charged with looking after several of the FPJ's. He seems to be rather busy....

"I have followed your top ten list with interest. I would add repeated failures of yaw and autopilot servos. We maintain xxxx aircraft and have changed at least xx different actuators. Some have failed right out of the box. The most recent failure was of elevator trim actuators that left the aircraft with an un-commanded non responsive nose up trim condition leading to an emergency landing."

I asked how many hours his fleet had, to get some idea of hard they were working. He responded:-

"It is hard to rack up the hours when half the planes are usually down for some kind of maintenance squawk. Cockpit side windows and flap actuators on xxxx different planes have been really serious problems. One thing we have noticed that others haven't seen is that in the pylon area there are small doors called VORE doors that are part the air conditioning system. These have little actuator motors that sit inside a little well bumped into a bottom panel. That well will fill with water and cause corrosion on the motors. We have replaced three and have taken to drilling drain holes to alleviate the problem."

Hmmm, I thinks, the VORE doors is a new one (to me), I'd better share it with the blog.

So now you know.

Next a commentary from a 'working pilot' on the various matters around the Brandywine incident. He has some clearly expressed views, which might help other pilots of the FPJ. Note also that this person is positive about the aircraft, just a bit put out by the avionics.

"As many of my fellow Captains will agree, the FPJ has excellent engines and a pretty solid airframe. It's fuel efficiency is downright fantastic. After looking at the list of shortcomings, you guys have hit the nail on the head. The order might be different than somebody who craves function would like, but this does an excellent job of illustrating the many woes.

However, we are having less problems with tires. It has been weeks since I have heard of one blowing, where I work. This plane doesn't need antiskid, spoilers, or any other device to slow it down. All it needs is average piloting skills and better procedures. I have been teaching the others to bring the stick to full up during braking. This puts more weight on the main wheels for better traction. This technique is filtering it's way through the fleet.

I have years of experience of flying into high density airports with smaller transport aircraft. This plane can mix it very well. What limits it are the idiots that came up with the idea that final approach, from the final approach fix, has to be done at Vref + 10 ( about 103KTS). This school of thought comes from flying heavy transports that have a lot of momentum to control. The FPJ is light, and slows down easily when flaps are brought to landing and the power is idle. It doesn't burn up excessive runway either.

If I were to come up with an approach profile for this plane, this is how it would be. Keep the flaps at the takeoff position until short final with the runway in sight {about 200' AGL}. Speed 120 kts. When landing is assured, power idle, flaps landing. The airspeed will slow to Vref easily. Guess what, it's the same as the single engine approach procedure for this plane. I would also like to increase the max flap extension speed to 125 kts, for flaps landing, instead of the 120 we have now. Another plus is that if the pilot has to do a missed approach, the flaps are already in the takeoff configuration. All the pilot has to do is to raise the landing gear, when the plane is climbing at a positive rate.

We all believe that the FPJ can really be something. Piss poor planning, and execution has prevailed. EAC should "stand down" and concentrate on what's important."

So you see, it's not all bad news. The aircraft is well liked, with a good airframe, engines and fuel burn. The avionics are a problem, but we knew that, and the way EAC treats its customers is a big problem. And we have known that for a long time!

Finally, thanks to all who contributed to our Top Ten Shortcomings list, now winging it's way to the appropriate inbox. The debate was useful, and the original idea from Turboprop_Pilot was just the sort of suggestion the blog needs.

As I finish this, many rumblings reach me from ABQ. More later, I'm pretty sure.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Top Ten Shortcomings of the FPJ

Just so you all know, preparing this was a lot of fun for your humble custodian. Remember that it was Turbopro_Pilot, who made the original suggestion of a list like this. It is intended for the DOT investigations into the original granting of the TC and PC to Eclipse Aviation. I asked for a 'Top Five' with the idea that this would encourage everyone to choose their 'pet hates' about the aircraft. However, many people chose to pick on the company, in whole or in part. So I've decided to do the original 'Top Ten' on the FPJ itself, and then a 'Top Five' about the company. Thanks to all who took part, even those who did not email it and had me trawling through the blog at all hours of the night!

Top Ten Shortcomings of the Fisher Price Jet
1. Repeated tyre failures.
2. Autopilot disconnects far too often, increasing pilot workload.
3. Phostrex is leaking.
4. No independent back up instruments.
5. Poor Avio/AvioNG reliability.
6. No FIKI on existing fleet.
7. No EASA certificate, despite many promises.
8. Incomplete systems as demonstrated by 'INOP' stickers as standard.
9. Aircraft as built may not conform to Type Certificate.
10. Door failures.

These are the real issues which need to be drawn to the attention of the DOT investigation. I have the address and contact details and propose, after a fair period of review by you, my peers, to send it on. Let's allow 5 days from today for comment. If there is something enough people feel strongly about, I can change the order or the content, but ONLY as it affects this aircraft.

The other items, which have become part of the vote, I have condensed as follows. Clearly, Vern is the winner, by miles. I just wanted that to be part of the record, even if he is now 'history' as far as the day to day running of the company is concerned. I should also state that more than one source confirms he has indeed left, but has only done so with what appears to be poor grace. Again, there is little point in putting this list in front of an investigator, but it will form part of the record and may be of some use to parties who find themselves in dispute with EAC.

Top Five Shortcomings of Eclipse Aviation Corporation
1. Vern Raburn.
2. Future viability in doubt.
3. Spurious order book.
4. High staff turnover, especially at manager level.
5. Mixed status of the fleet, leading to maintenance problems.

On a different topic, and just to lift the mood. Back in the good old days of Christmas 2002, when Vern was still popular with the 230 staff at EAC, they decided to buy him a Christmas present. Unsure what 'the man who had everything' would appreciate, they got him a wheelbarrow.

A wheelbarrow?

You know, to help him carry his 'you know whats' around, which at the time were highly regarded by the staff for their enormous (metaphorical) size. Some still think he never 'got' the joke...

Finally, the 'For Sale' sign above was spotted 'on the ramp' at Oshkosh. Thanks to all of you who a) noticed and b) thought of me. I chose the clearest photo and did indeed get permission to use it here. If Eclipse want it for their advertising, I'm sure the photographer would agree a suitable fee. 

Payable in advance, of course.


As promised, we've kicked the list around for a while now, and this is the latest version. I have used Dave Ivedorn's as the basis, with a few slight mods to reflect the broadest possible consensus. This thread will run until Tuesday/Wednesday (depending on your time zone...) when our 'next' topic will reveal itself.

'Top Ten Shortcomings, FPJ, V 2.0

1. Repeated tire failures on landing:
a. Landing gear originally engineered for a 4800# MTOW aircraft - maximum landing weight now 5600#; MTOW 5995#
b. Lack of anti-skid
c. Lack of speed brakes leads to unstable approach / excessive landing speed when sharing terminal airspace with faster transport category aircraft.d. Lack of ground spoilers.
2. Frequent failures of integrated control system ( Avio / Avio NG ), leading to increased pilot workload:
a. Frequent & random autopilot disconnections.
b. Frequent loss of trim control.
c. Throttle/FADEC software flaw induces cross-controlled operation during critical phases of flight.
d. Full functionality of Avio system has never been achieved, resulting in vestigial controls and hardware on aircraft - witness numerous INOP placards on glareshield, as well as non-functional autothrottles.
e. Transponder behavior erratic, with spontaneous shutdowns & randomly changing IDs.
3. Fire supression system performance doesn't conform to manufacturer-defined maintenance schedule - with frequent leaks of an extreme corrosive in concealed locations.
4. No independent back up instruments.
5. Certification irregularities - despite several unresolved safety / regulatory issues identified by aircraft certification engineers & flight test pilots, a TC was issued "from afar", in a manner which seemed only to accommodate the timing of performance bonuses for FAA management ( with the collateral effect of affecting a possible refund event for Eclipse depositors ).
6. Inadequate windshield integrity.
7. Aircraft as built may not conform to type certificate - manufacturing revisions necessary for faster production are inadequately documented, and not reflected in the reference blueprints for the aircraft.
8. Apparent moisture problems with pitot / static / AOA system, leading to frequent CAS false alarms.
9. Inadequate progress on retrofitting delivered aircraft, especially FIKI & avionics.
10. Behavior / integrity of aluminum structures assembled with friction stir welding not well understood over time, especially if operated in saline ( or otherwise corrosive ) environments.

So there you have it. I dropped the 'door issue' and promoted the pitot mess as more than one pilot has raised that specifically with me in the past. As one of you noted, generally democracy is fine, but every now and then someone has to be a dictator. So, unless I'm run out of town before Wednesday, I propose to pass this version onto the appropriate authority.

And if you really, REALLY feel strongly about an item that didn't make the list, or is not visible enough on this one, email me.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Another important notice for the 'Honor Roll'

Eclipse Aviation: New CEO, Blogger Suit Quashed

By Karen Di Piazza /CharterX Industry Headline News

Monday, Vern Raburn, founder of Eclipse Aviation Corp., was ejected from his position as CEO. Roel Pieper, Eclipse chairman, founder and chairman of the of European Technology and Investment Research Center, became Eclipse's acting CEO. Raburn will act as vice chairman of ETIRC, to focus on global expansion of the Eclipse 500 very light. With Raburn gone, Friday, the Eclipse Aviation Critic NG blog lawsuit, lead by Raburn, was quashed. (Reference the April 25 article, Eclipse Aviation Critic Blogger Fights Eclipse Aviation Subpoena, and Quash Eclipse Aviation Subpoena of Eclipse Aviation Critic Bloggers, published May 8.)
Eclipse served Google in California with a subpoena demanding it release personal information and the identities of 29 bloggers. Rich Lucibella, who's in the publishing business, wasn't one of the 29 people on Eclipse's list. A huge proponent of the First Amendment and everything it stands for, Lucibella hired Florida-based attorney Norman Malinski, who took on Eclipse on behalf of the 29 bloggers. He immediately filed a motion to prevent Google from releasing bloggers' private information.

Eclipse had first filed a lawsuit in New Mexico, where Eclipse is headquartered, against unnamed people that agedly violated company non-disclosure agreements; however, Eclipse sought to subpoena Google for the names of 29 bloggers trying to match identities with those who may have breeched NDAs. The New Mexico case was sealed for months; Malinski successfully filed a motion unsealing the case in late July.

Eclipse ended up withdrawing both the New Mexico and California case, with terms set by Malinski. "If Eclipse ever goes after these 29 bloggers again, Eclipse could face financial penalties in advance of proceedings," Malinski said.

Malinski said that the First Amendment is important. "Freedom of speech rights includes being able to keep your identity anonymous, to be able to express freedom of speech, to have the freedom to disagree with someone else's opinion without being harassed."

Lucibella said that he was happy that more money won't be "wasted by Eclipse's creditors on this frivolous lawsuit, and that the suit was nothing more than a personal vendetta by Raburn."

Shane Price, host of the Eclipse Aviation Critic NG blog, said, "I'm delighted that the revised management structure at Eclipse decided to withdraw the 'John Doe, Jane Doe' litigation. It was a waste of time, a waste of management resources and cash. Rich Lucibella deserves gratitude for his selfless act to protect others' welfare; he funded the defense of First Amendment rights."

Eclipse declined to comment.

This article is reproduced here 'for the record'. Although Karen was kind enough to quote me, I wish to state that we all owe Gunner, big time, for his direct action in the matter. A man who says what he means and means what he says. His lawyer, Norman Malinski, also deserves credit for his prompt actions at all times, and the astute manner in which he identified the weaknesses in the Eclipse submissions.

So, there you have it. The suit is finished, and cannot be reactivated unless EAC stump up a pile of cash. I hope you all sleep a little easier now. I know I will...