“I’m surprised you’re all here. I had heard the VLJ revolution was over. I’m happy to be here.”
“A couple weeks ago, 10 days ago, I was in Amelia Island. I flew an Eclipse there. I was invited to Edsel Ford’s 60th birthday. Edsel said to me “This is the challenge. Our business depends on one thing--scale. It’s not about the car we build, it’s that we build it on a large enough scale. We have to get to that level that we break even. We know we’re making the right trucks. We know we got a great product in Europe. But for us to bring one of those cars to the States, we can’t just shut a factory down and start making Fiestas. It would be multi-billion dollar investment. Overnight we saw attitudes in America change. We've sold pickups for 60 years, and now we think we've lost all the customers who don’t use pickups for a living.”
He then moved onto what the transcript describes as being the ‘key discussion’ during the day.
“This is a business of scale and capital formation. I’m really good at that. I'm probably the only person in this room who has raised $1 billion in capital. Don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s a fact. How do you do this? Not a lot of ways right now. There's a lot of discussion about organic growth--that's a fancy way of saying you fund it yourself. I don’t want to take a drug from a drug company that used organic growth to develop that drug. This industry is time intensive, it's regulatory intensive, it's capital intensive. And it can’t be done by raising a million from family and friends. Piper said they can build a jet for $150 million. At Eclipse, we had to build the whole infrastructure from scratch. About half a billion was spent getting the aircraft through cert. Half of that, $250 million, was because we had to start over a couple times. There was the failure of the Williams engine. I praise P&W. I’ve been criticized in the media for saying the problems were due to vendors. I’ve never said that. If one vendor--in a chain--fails, that’s a big problem. Ask Boeing (about the 787).”
There you have it. He’s actually boasting about blowing a BILLION dollars of other people’s money, and now tries to rub their noses in it by saying he had to ‘start over’ several times. There were several remarks about Williams, and P&W. Needless to say, they were self serving and no longer relevant. The Wedge then moved back to his core premise:-
“This is a business of scale. If you say we’re going to produce 30 a year, that’s going to drive capability, cost. The thesis here that I’d like to explore is that it's time to change the definition of VLJ: Value Light Jet. That's the real theme. Now were finally talking about facts, not database speculation. We have real facts. "We have seen the dogs eat the dog food." Ed proved it this morning. Bill [Herp] talked about it. It is happening. The underlining theme is one thing: it’s about value. Most of their customers are not coming out of NetJets or the airlines. They're coming off the highways. How do you get these people off the highway? Offer them a better value. Offer a different set of values: time, convenience, safety. It will be different for every consumer. Truly on demand and customized.”
The only thing that Ed proved was how to go bankrupt in under a year. Mind you, he did have help from his ‘friends’ at EAC, so it was not a solo effort. Despite the visible proof that there is no ‘air taxi’ market of sufficient size to drive real volume, The Wedge refuses to drop the shovel he’s using to dig the hole he’s in and continues.
“I’d like to see VLJs and air taxis---VLJs are an enabler. Any one of a number of airplanes will work. VLJs bring a new dimension. Here’s a little secret the Eclispe 500 is the airplane I wanted. A ‘turbofan’ Duke. What I wanted was a jet that was like a Duke. That’s what the Eclipse started out as. The ultimate owner pilot aircraft. It is still the core of who Eclipse is selling to, especially since the demise of DayJet. Don’t associate air taxi and VLJs. Air taxi can thrive and succeed without VLJ, and VLJs can survive without air taxis.”
Drivel, pure drivel. I can’t make sense of what he’s saying, and I don’t think he can either. Is it that DayJet shows you can’t run a small scale taxi operation, or that the whole idea is a distraction and the real market is the ‘owner pilot’? And then, for no reason I can fathom, he is recorded as saying next:-
“I was involved in early stages of development of PowerPoint: I have made 2 promises to myself: I quit shaving. I don’t use PowerPoint anymore.”
I don’t know why he said this, or the link between facial hair and presenting ideas, but he said it. As usual, he can’t avoid a direct lie. PowerPoint was bought by Microsoft from a Macintosh developer in 1987. The Wedge left Microsoft in 1982…
“We were convinced (old partner, college roommate) we could sell computers to people just like Pacific Stereos sells to people. Thought it would take 6 months. It took 10 years. That industry is 12 times faster than aviation industry. I look at the VLJ industry and say it’s not going as fast as I would have liked. I want things to happen 10 faster than physics says it can. We’ve got 400 airplanes 260 Eclipse. Cessna 250. The safety record is phenomenal. People said, “It’s going to be the next doctor killer, the next Bonanza.” They say to the owner-pilot, “You’re a good pilot, except you’re not professional. Screw you asshole.” Cirrus killed lots of people. After 2 years Eclipse has 2 accidents, both runway overruns. Cessna and Eclipse take a different attitude toward training. I think we’re doing pretty good. People out there don’t want us to succeed. This is an industry that eats its young. Capital formation very difficult. It’s difficult because it requires a lot. It can’t be done in your garage. It requires lots of capital, lots of patience. It’s fraught with people whose comment to anything new is “It can’t be done. It hasn’t been done, so it shouldn’t be done” or “Well if it could have been done, we would have used King Airs.” Bullshit. The airplane doesn’t make a flip bit of difference.”
Now now, lets keep the language clean around here. The Wedge gets back into paranoid mode:-
“It’s a willingness to take risks. Entrepreneurship. This industry has lost its spirit of entrepreneurship, and it’s phenomenally sad. This is an industry, if it doesn’t change attitude, its approach to innovation, disruption [is in real trouble] Early 2001, Russ Meyer--who I admire, he made Cessna what it is---Russ is a great man. Russ sought out two off my largest investors to tell them it was stupid of them to invest. “It won’t work” It didn’t help my cause, someone of his magnitude, credibility, stature, to seek out investors and board members to say don’t do this. That’s what I’m talking about.”
See, everyone was out to ‘get’ him, all them dinosaurs from the existing aviation community. There are evil men everywhere, bent on browbeating a saint who never lifted a feather to any of his competitors. Shame on them. The problem with his views on these matters is very simple, and may indeed indicate a deeper psychosis. Everyone else is wrong, because The Wedge is always right. There are a range of medical conditions and personality disorders which we could consider, but this is an aviation blog, not a medical one.
“What am I going to do next? I don’t know. I’m an entrepreneur. I know how to take risks and I’m proud of that. It’s not the first failure in my life, and probably won’t be the last. But we need capital, and the future of capital is pretty bleak. I think we’re in for a tough period. We’ve been drunk on credit for a decade. But that’s a free economy. This isn’t new news.”
Probably the most sensible thing he said for a long time. Are you listening Roel? This chap claims to know more about the market than anyone else, and he says the future is bleak.
“We have never had financial global systems so completely interwoven. It’s really scary. Problem is that we have an increasingly uneducated electorate. I still think the best comment: Warren Buffet---time to be fearful when everyone’s greedy, be greedy when everyone else is fearful. Intense fear right now. I’m very concerned about attitudes. I don’t share Ed’s pessimistic view. We’ll emerge differently, but not necessarily right away.”
Ed was clearly better informed than The Wedge. If anything the short term outlook is getting worse.
“Where will I end up? Where the capital takes me. Green tech is very hot right now. Am I going to start a nuclear power company? That has it’s own set of regulatory complications. I don’t know. When I do, I’ll let you know.”
There you go. Watch out fellas, he is thinking of going nuclear. Clear out those old bomb shelters and lay in a stock of food. The Wedge wants to go out in a real blaze of glory.
“People have asked me if I’m going to be the next Secretary of Transportation. No way in all of God’s green earth. If I were to go to DC, I only wonder how long it would be before I blew up and went postal. No. I’m not politically connected enough. I didn’t vote for Obama. One article said I was a member of Obama’s aviation staff. No. I feel like Sarah Plain. No I’m not going to be the Secretary of Transportation or the next FAA administrator. I’m not going to be involved in government. I’ve watched that town suck the life out of [people]. Not a good place. It is a profoundly and decidedly negative place to exist.”
As far as I remember, the only one promoting The Wedge for Washington was Black Tulip! Does he not have one nice thing to say of your national capital? I think the monuments are quite nice, and I understand some of the food can be very pleasant. But no, he’s feeling negative about it. I wonder if it’s because of the FAA? Ah, here we go, a fully fledged rant:-
“We are in for a tough haul with the FAA. We’re going into the dark ages. It is all politically motivated. 100 percent political. The Congressional hearings on Eclipse had to do with unions. I am the only one who has the courage to stand up and say this. They’ve had it out [in - ed?] for Hickey and Sabatini. Their cronies, led by Oberstar, sucked up to them. They planted stories with USA Today. It’s all politics. The FAA is unfortunately subject to this. One way to describe it, there are people in government that think the government is the only one capable of doing what’s right and correct. They believe that from a regulatory standpoint, the only people who can truly enforce are government.”
Really? So, EAC were correct and the FAA were wrong? Does that mean that the TC and PC were delivered after political pressure was applied? Lets see how he squares that one.
“We did face challenges with certification. We chose to do a lot of things differently. Eclipse 500 never had an electrical failure. People said we couldn’t build digital electrical system, and now Bombardier is duplicating that system for the Lear 85. John Hickey --who I have more respect for---his comment was to me, “Look Vern, our guys in the field are not the best engineers. We have those people, but you have to remember, the safest word for bureaucrat is no. They’re only good at approving things they’ve seen before.”
So the FAA people in the field have no idea what they are doing. Therefore, they were not qualified to issue the certifications. So the FAA HQ people did it for them. But the FAA are not political. Hang on, The Wedge said they were. I’m confused…
“80 percent of Eclipses are not in air taxi. One of the good things about my departure from the company [I got an Eclipse]. I flew on average 25 hours in the last three months. I just go. Put as much gas in as I can, go as long as I can. The airplane has 300 hours. It just runs. Just get in, start and go. Part of the problem is that I know too much about the airplane. Every time I land somewhere—I was at AOPA talking to Ed Bolen and Phil Boyer--two owners came up to me and thanked me for the airplane. One of the schizophrenic problems that Eclipse has. There is the 5 percent asshole quotient, but owners love them. It does exactly what it says. We screwed up on some things, and some vendors screwed up. There were some problems. But it’s an exceptional airplane. With a good tailwind, you can get 10 miles per gallon. At one airport, an old B17 pilot came up to me and said how the great airplane was. He didn’t know who I was. When I hear things like that, it makes all this worth it.”
This is called MBWA. Steve Jobs did it at Apple before John Scully fired him. It’s short for Management By Walking Around. As far as The Wedge is concerned, everything in the garden is rosy because people he bumps into tell him it is.
(Asked from the floor about the future of Eclipse) “I don’t know. I have zero association with the company today. That is partially their choice, partially my choice. I made decision, some on the board wanted me to stay, I knew it would be like going from captain of the ship to third officer or worse. When I’m not happy, I’m destructive. With my personality, I couldn’t handle that. I’m not good at being Number 2.”
Ask anyone Wedge. You were crap at being ‘Number 1’…
“Why have I been vilified? That’s a tough question. I watched it happen to one of my best friends: Bill Gates. We were playing golf one day, when he was going through all that shit with DOJ. People were saying, “This is a bad, evil person” Bill said to me, “All I thought I was doing was making life easier for people.” I talked to him recently about what happened it to me. The reason I got fired was simple, I pissed off the investors. I stood up to them, didn’t want to do what they wanted to do. When you’re CEO, your job is to lead, to decide. Board approves or disapproves. If they don’t like it, they have one choice: accept it or fire you. I didn’t leave, I got fired. I was going in a direction that the investors didn’t want to go. So they fired me. When it isn’t working, you fire the coach. Why I was vilified? I don’t know. It’s because I’m such a warm, fuzzy person.”
Name dropping was always one of his minor sins, so we’ll let that one go. But false modesty never looks pretty on the Curriculum Vitae.
“I’ve been scoured in the blogosphere, all by people who are “idiots and cowards.” (to quote Sarah Palin) They do it through anonymity. I’ve never shied away from saying “You’re an idiot.” You look at these postings, and they’re all by people who are anonymous. They’re cockroaches trying to hide under rocks.”
Hello, Mr. Wedge, your favorite cockroach here. Are you ‘name calling’ for a reason? Is it because Rich Lucibella stood up to your SLAPP suit and put you back in your box? Do you think, like I do, that the exposure you provided this blog was one of the bad decisions that got you fired? What exactly is your problem with the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States anyway? I’ve a load of questions, as do a considerable number of reporters I know. Care to answer any of them? Or have you crawled under a rock, grown a beard (it doesn’t suit you, by the way) and hope people forget how you burned a self-confessed ‘billion dollars’ of other peoples’ money? You know where to find me if you want to unburden your tortured soul.
“Eclipse is a FOQA-approved agency. We used that data to identify problems. The Midway throttle problem: massively misreported. It was a failure mode we did not anticipate. When you really slam on the throttles-it took 45 lbs of push. One of the problems Eclipse foisted on itself, engineers happier than a pig in mud that they have so much precision. In the case of the Eclipse, that fault condition--not a failure--latched in 200 milliseconds. We did research turns out on Cessnas FADEC 2 seconds-6 seconds. They latch 50X slower than Eclipse. So the Eclipse did what it was designed to do. Turns into a big deal with NTSB. Emergency press release. By the time it was released--by the way, we had already done that. Sturgell asked Mark R. (NTSB) --WTF?? Mark said, “You know that’s how the game is played.” That’s a direct quote. But when I say it’s all politics, people say I’m a jerk. Personal vilification: something needs to be changed.”
Yes Mr. Wedge, it’s clearly everyone else’s fault. You had no personal responsibility for any of it. People in aviation will be happy to work with you again, I’m sure. As I will, the next time you start to rip people off. And the time after that. And after that. I know you fancy dabbling with nuclear power, but remember that most scientist agree with the following. After you trigger your ‘nuclear winter’ the first life to reappear will be the cockroach.
I’ll be waiting for you.
Proud custodian of Stan’s legacy.
Proud custodian of Stan’s legacy.