Thursday, February 26, 2009

Light(s) at the end of the tunnel?

UPDATED Sunday 1st March 2009

URGENT, FAA issues a "Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin" for Eclipse owners.

Check out the official notice from the FAA. They've clearly been fielding questions about the current 'issues' affecting the FPJ. Read it, fully, and act accordingly. Anyone operating one of these aircraft may find themselves in more hot water if they choose to ignore the advice. In particular I'd draw your attention to the issue affecting those with IS&S displays (AvioNG), which cut on on s/n 105 and may have been retrofitted to a few of the earlier aircraft.

Original Post
I've been watching, in my quiet way, a few of those who were interested in the original Chapter 11 sale for the assets of EAC. I did so in the firm belief that the pre cooked sale by Roel, to Roel, would end in tears. I'm aware of several entities who may, or may not, be able to make Eclipse V 2.0 happen, some of whom will make a go of it, and others who will not. As often happens in these matters, those who 'come out' early on get an advantage, if only by being brave enough to explain what they are about.

Herewith two of those efforts. Make of them what you will, and understand that I provide this space in a sincere effort to find a way forward for staff, suppliers and owners seeking some solace in difficult circumstances. Others, with similar intentions, are of course welcome to contact me. In the meantime, the best of 'Irish Luck' to Phil, his team and now the 'owners group', who join the fray below. I should add that this has been sent to me by the official representative of the the owners, who is know to me for some time.

So, now there are two. May the best 'entity' win....

Shane, updated 27th February 2009, 16.30 GMT

Dear Eclipse 500 Owner,

As you must be aware, Eclipse Aircraft Corporation has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the last two months. In the last few days events have unfolded that will take the company into Chapter 7 liquidation.

The future utility and value of our aircraft is now in serious jeopardy. If we as owners do not take control of these events, we risk having our planes grounded, become unserviceable, and ultimately become worthless. We can no longer rely on someone else.

The only way the owners can be assured of the continued use of their aircraft is to come together as a group and as a group participate in the creation of a successor organization that will have full control of the serviceability, modification, and long term reliability of our airplanes.

Today there are a number of outside entities that are “looking” at the owners as an income stream that they can fully exploit like a monopoly. These entities believe if they control the assets of Eclipse, they can charge the owners hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get their plane upgraded and serviced. One of these plans wants to charge owners a $300,000 surcharge for any modification plus the marked-up cost of parts and labor. Another plan wants to charge owner a yearly fee of up to $90,000 just to access service. This would add $500 an hour to the average cost of operating your aircraft significantly reducing its value.

We as owners can either sit by and watch others take control of our airplanes or we can take that control ourselves. This will not be easy or without cost. But it will be far better than the alternative.

The Ad Hoc Committee of Eclipse Customers has recommended that Eclipse Owners join together and form their own group, taking charge of their destiny. We, the owners on the steering committee of the Ad Hoc Committee of Eclipse Customers, will be holding conference calls in the next few days so that we can reach out to all owners and discuss next steps in this process. We ask that you join us on one of these conference calls.

Just email your name, street address, telephone number and Eclipse serial number to and we will send you the access number, dates and time so that you can be part of one of these conference calls. If you cannot attend one of these calls, we will send you full information on how we can all join together.

We are on a very fast timetable. The liquidation sale will take place very quickly. We don’t have a great deal of time to protect our future. Let’s all unite, and as a solid unified group we will be able take control of our Eclipse future and be able to fully utilize our aircraft without being held hostage by others.

Mike Press, Randall Sanada, Ron Lebel, David Green, Ken Meyer

P.S. As we mentioned there are a number of “plans” being developed by others. Please make sure that if you have to sign an NDA to view those plans that you are not limiting your ability to join all the owners in a common effort.

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — February 26, 2009 — Today Phil Friedman announced the formation of New Eclipse Acquisition LLC (“New Eclipse”) which intends to bid for the assets of Eclipse Aviation Corporation in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings.

Mr. Friedman is an experienced aerospace executive who has turned around several companies over his 28 year career. He is currently CEO of Harlow Aerostructures LLC in Wichita, KS which manufactures electro mechanical and structural assemblies for many OEM’s in the aircraft industry. Peter Reed, former CFO of Eclipse for seven years, is part of Friedman’s team and has actively participated in developing the New Eclipse business plan over the past
several months.

“I have been studying the Eclipse situation for over a year,” said Friedman. “It is sad that the company has ended up in bankruptcy, but I believe there is an excellent business opportunity going forward if managed correctly. Our plan is to take the first 24 months to stabilize the fleet of 259 aircraft and restore the brand. All aircraft will be brought up to the current type certification level so that ongoing service and support is as efficient as possible. We will also retain a significant number of engineers to improve aircraft reliability, upgrade the avionics suite, and focus on reducing manufacturing costs to industry benchmark levels. We will open several smaller service centers around the country to provide more convenient access to service the fleet and will also provide pilot training here in Albuquerque.”

“We will be charging customers to bring their aircraft up to the latest certification level. Our business plan assumes some of the customers will not be able to afford the upgrade. Our sales representatives will work with these customers at no charge to find new buyers who will have the means to pay for the upgrades. In providing this service, and with a business plan that translates into the New Eclipse becoming a company with a profitable long term future, we will be supporting the investment that the existing owners have made in their aircraft. Our objective is to bring the aftermarket price of the Eclipse up to the $2 million range, thereby providing a valuable service to all existing owners. We also plan to finish and sell seven new aircraft on the production line that are about 95% complete. In addition there are 28 DayJet aircraft that will need to be upgraded and refurbished and new owners found.”

“Employment levels over the next 24 months should be about 400 people as we upgrade and service the fleet,” said Friedman. “After the engineers have upgraded the avionics to the latest functionality, reduced manufacturing costs, and we have re-established relationships with the supplier base, we plan to restart new aircraft production in 2011 at modest levels, approximately 100 aircraft per year with pricing in the $2.4 million range. At that point employment will increase to approximately 600 people.”

“We certainly recognize that bringing Eclipse out of bankruptcy will be challenging. There are many parties that have been badly hurt and bridges will have to be rebuilt and relationships restored to execute on our plan. We understand that the employees who have been laid off need to feed their families and pay their mortgages. We are actively exploring ways to hold the key talent together during the Chapter 7 process so we can re-employ them with the new company.”

Mr. Friedman may be reached at (702) 449-8312 or email at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The 'final aria' is sung

We Critics knew this day would come. The only real question was when, not if. From Stan's first post in April 2006, and mine just over a year ago, the details were unclear but the outcome was predictable. After almost 10 years, and at least $2 billion of profligate waste, this chapter in GA is now closed. At least we can take away the thought that we tried our very best to warn the gullible and illuminate the dark corners, but we must also remember the men and women who put their heart and soul into this project, be they the staff, the suppliers, the depositors and investors who've all lost something. Even those very few unlucky enough to have become owners, deserve consideration and yes a bit of human kindness at this time.

Earlier today, the 'senior note holders' filed a Motion to Convert to Chapter 7, which will give them effective control of the assets of Eclipse Aviation Corporation. This was accompanied by a Motion to Shorten, which leads one to believe that these note holders do not anticipate opposition from ETIRC. This ends the Chapter 11/Section 363 process, which began on the 25th of November last.

There will clearly be ongoing coverage of this, both here and in the wider media. I'll update the headline and provide ongoing information as soon as it reaches me here in Ireland.

Finally, for now, let's remind ourselves of the debt we all to to Stan and Rich, the former for starting the ball rolling and the latter for defending us in our hour of need.


UPDATED Wednesday 25th 14.25 GMT

Dear Eclipsers:

We are very sad to report unexpected news today. Despite the efforts of many people at EclipseJet Aviation and ETIRC to obtain necessary funding to close the purchase of the assets of Eclipse Aviation, the closing of the sale transaction has stalled and our company is out of time and money. Given the dire circumstances in today’s global marketplace and the lack of additional debtor-in-possession funding, the senior secured creditors of the Company filed a motion today in US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to convert the Chapter 11 case to a Chapter 7 liquidation. This action, under the circumstances, is being supported by the directors of Eclipse.

What does this mean for each employee? The furlough converted to a layoff effective Thursday, February 19, 2009. Most regrettably, you will not be paid the paycheck due on Thursday, March 5, 2009 nor is any vacation pay available. You may have certain rights to seek payment in the bankruptcy proceeding; you may receive additional information about that from the bankruptcy court.

As it stands today, all benefits coverage will end at midnight on February 28, 2009. COBRA benefits will be available for the month of March if you wish to sign up for medical, dental and/or vision coverage. Later this week you will receive a termination package in the mail which will have information regarding all of your benefits.

The Bankruptcy Court will likely appoint a Chapter 7 trustee in our case within 30 days, at which time the trustee will control all assets of Eclipse and will seek to sell them. We cannot comment at this early stage on any liquidation path that might be pursued or possible interest from potential buyers.

We have times set aside on Wednesday and Thursday for each department to come in and collect their personal belongings in their cubes.

Building Schedule for Employee Access

Ø HQ Wednesday 10 to noon

Ø SP 2 Wednesday 1pm to 3pm

Ø SP 3 Wednesday 3pm to 5pm

Ø SP 4 Thursday 9am to 11am

Ø SP 9 Thursday 9am to 11am

Ø SP 10 Thursday 1pm to 3pm

Ø DEII Thursday 1pm to 3pm

Ø SP 11 Thursday 3pm to 5pm

Ø Gainesville Wednesday 10am to noon

Ø Albany Wednesday 10am to noon

All of the executive management team at Eclipse gives you our most sincere and heartfelt thanks for your tenacity and perseverance in trying to deliver this dream we know as the Eclipse 500. We gave it one heck of a try. We are sorry that it came to this today.

Mark Borseth

Michael McConnell

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eclipse Aviation furloughs employees

UPDATED 21.00hrs GMT
This from the inbox, giving us the 'official' text:-

Wednesday February 18, 2009

We are sure that you have noticed that the sale of Eclipse Aviation is taking longer than
expected. The efforts of many people to finalize the sale of Eclipse to EclipseJet is still
on course but slower than we all had hoped for. Even with the difficult financial markets
around the world, all actions to date allow us to believe that the sale and closing of the
overall process is well within reach. In spite of this optimism, we now find it prudent to
take action to provide us the best possible chance of assuring a sale closing occurs.

To make the company’s remaining cash last as long as possible and give us the most time
to complete the sale, the Board of Directors directed management to furlough essentially
all of the company’s employees effective today. This means you can go home and unless
you are asked, you should not report to work starting tomorrow, Thursday February 19,
2009, until further notice.

You will receive Thursday’s paycheck as normally distributed for work through Saturday,
February 14, 2009. It is our intention that all benefit coverage will remain in full effect.
We regret the need to take this action but we ask that you see the necessity given the
circumstances. You will be contacted at your home address and/or by home phone to
notify you when to return to your job or to provide any additional updates.

While this is unpleasant and hopefully short lived, we are very thankful for all of the
ongoing support you are giving to Eclipse Aviation. We hope to have good news to
report to you in the coming days.

Roel Pieper
Mark Borseth
Michael McConnell

A sudden 'bloom' on the inbox always means big news out of ABQ. So it proved when I checked in this evening. At a meeting this morning, and via email for some, the staff were told of an immediate closure of the factory. Pay will be honored, but not for the past few days. As I get more detail I'll post it here, or as 'notice' on the blog.

The signs (behind the scenes) have been getting steadily worse for the past 10 days or so, with a number of missed deadlines in the Chapter 11 sales process. In the past few days, Roel has also gone 'walkabout', despite the crisis at the company. Various financial types have been deeply involved, trying to plot a way forward. I'd love to say more but I won't because today we need to think about the staff, their families and the supplier community.

I think I can speak for all of us 'critics' that this event, although long predicted, is not one that gives anyone a feeling of joy. My heart goes out to the breadwinner heading home to tell loved ones of hard times and disrupted lives and to the homemaker already struggling to stay upbeat in trying times.

One of the 'Honor Roll' has already offered help with those seeking jobs. I post his 'special purpose' address here, and will be happy to do so for others who's bona fides I'm happy with.

Coldwet (well known to all of 'us') is a solid professional, who will do all he can in the situation.

Every cloud has a silver lining, even if it seems bleak at present. Some suppliers are also in a very bad place, but can now at least move forward with other projects. Finally, it's almost inevitable that the next step will see the remaining stakeholders (owners, depositors and investors/lenders) left with little to feel cheerful about.

At least the speculation is coming to an end. One way or the other, this matter draws to a close.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Love it, loath it.

We've been so tied up waiting for news from Moscow that I've been slow to update the headline post, but I've also been working with a number of owners and/or pilots to provide a 'warts and all' review of the FPJ in the real world. It's fair to summarize my findings with the headline above, as it's clear to me that the aircraft is like the mythical 'little girl'. You all know the story, which goes like this:-

"When she is good, she is very, very good. But when she is bad, she is horrid"

So, with that in mind, herewith a mixture of quotations (in red) and my own contributions which remain in good old fashioned black. It's a very underrated colour in my humble opinion, but I digress.

The basics
Most of us have never flown an FPJ, and it's probably fair to say that few of us critics would embrace the opportunity were it ever to present itself. Across the range of replies I've had, the common theme is that the bird flies very well, and meets (or exceeds) it's performance numbers. A typical comment:-

"Aerodynamicly they got the airframe design and engines right, they are a well blended match producing the performance numbers that were advertised. So Eclipse actually did meet that promise. The jet is very simple to fly, and the Avio NG system, although full of bugs, has a great display presentation and very logical interface to all of the aircrafts' systems."

Avio, both versions
It has some fans. Pilots like the presentation of everything in one style and they like the Crew Alerting System (CAS) popping up in plain view. They like the fact that you select one 'TO Configuration' and pretty much avoid the simpler ways to kill yourself on takeoff.

"The Avio NG system, although full of bugs, has a great display presentation and very logical interface to all the aircraft systems. For most this will be their first exposure to a crew alerting system. The CAS really reduces the workload and keeps you well informed on the health and status of the jet."

What drives everyone mad is due to the level of integration which tends to alert you a lot. Most pilots report that the audibles are too loud, to the point where they can interfere with ATC. The problem here is that there is no way to 'save' your preferred volume so that each time you fly you end up adjusting it again.

Startup, taxi and takeoff
A common thread with the FPJ is the GPU 'requirement'. It seems that any sort of hot weather at all makes the cockpit too uncomfortable to work in, so a number of pilots insist on starting the aircon first, which naturally ties you to the GPU. After doing the normal checklist, which is straightforward enough for a twin jet, it's time to taxi away. The size of the tires is blamed by several for what's claimed to be a rough ride, and the turning circle means you need to stay on top of your game out to the runway.

"Acceleration is fairly quick, inside is amazingly quiet. There is a nuisance alarm that can occur at warm ambient temps giving the occassional engine Warning message but other then that its APR armed, Airspeed alive, and at VR hands off the thottles and pull back on the stick. I wasn't sure if I would like the side stick, but after using it, I love the fact that you're wide open in front of you, perfect if you want to use your laptop or read something. At 400 feet flaps up, set max continuous thrust, and yaw damp on, 1000 feet auto pilot on, heading select, and the next check is 10k for recognition lights off and look for a delta P on the pressuization. To date all delivered E500'a are raw data, VOR DME aircraft. Autopilot is only good for pitch and roll. I have yet to fly an Eclipse that doesn't roll left and right 3 to 5 degrees when in heading mode."

So far, so good. The bird starts, taxi's and takes off without huge drama and in commendably short order. The takeoff distances are praised and the 'feel' of the aircraft also gets high marks.

Climb, cruise and descent
The Autopilot has its' limits, which many pilots have observed. While good in calm air, it tends to bug out in anything other than light turbulence. Range and payload are better than you would think, in large part due to the very low specific fuel consumption. This is clearly a tribute to the basic design, as well as the job P&W did on a 'clean sheet' engine. But there are 'real world' issues that you don't expect.

"Another downside to the autopilot is when commanding pitch changes in an NG aircraft. It sometimes takes up to 20 seconds or so before the input gets processed by the computers. My technique is to dial in 4 to 5 clicks of the wheel and resist the temptation to dial more if there is no initial response. Wait it out, eventually it will happen. In pitch mode the autopilot does a terrible job of maintaining a steady rate of descent, and it requires constant attention. I actuallly think it would be less work load to hand fly the descents."

ATC still don't quite know what to make of the FPJ. Over time this will probably go away, but only if the FPJ stays alive long enough, in numbers, so that the slower speed becomes more familiar to the controllers. To mix it with the jets at higher FL's also requires range limiting 'max thrust' settings, and there are issues with static interference on the radios cause by ice crystals. So, the comfortable range flight of about 850nm is coming to a end. What happens next?

Final approach and landing
Distractions from the 'high volume' audibles during final are a pain, as are the speed expectations from ATC. Our old friend of tyre wear makes a welcome reappearance on the blog. Remember when all we really talked about were simple things like that? Anyway, a concluding quote from an owner/pilot.

"Descents and landings are straight forward, although you will soon find that the slow speeds on approach used in the Sims create road blocks in the real world. Because a lot of ATC controllers aren't familiar with the Eclipse, they know you are a jet and sequence you into traffic accordingly and are expecting jet speeds. I usually fly the approach around 120 to 115, and slow as I approach 200 feet AGL. The jet lands easy, and as long as you touch down close to VTD, braking or tire blowouts should not be a problem. The tires do not wear well at all, and it is not the landings that take the toll. Any time the jet rolls on the ground, you can see black marks on the pavement, proof that the tires are leaving behind lots of rubber. And they wear on the outside near the sidewalls, not in the center."

So thats a pretty nice summary of the general performance of the aircraft, with details supplied by those who fly it. Naturally, there is more.

Living with the 'issues'
Naturally people are reluctant to be identified when there is still a remaining chance the original service centers will be around. They don't want to be scapegoated for drawing attention to the problems they've experienced so I'll have to be a bit vague in collating this section and avoid direct quotations.

The CAS system does exactly that. It keeps the crew alert by streaming plenty of false messages into the cockpit. All pilots who've contacted me report the same 'heading disagree', 'attitude disagree' and 'stick pusher fail' messages which come and go at a whim. The general experience with the earlier birds is worse, but even the Avio NG craft deliver master cautions and warnings of a spurious nature about one flight in four.

Mechanical failures abound, sadly, with door seals, air conditioning, rudder and elevator trim 'issues' very common. All owners report difficulties with water getting into places it shouldn't, which is bound to happen when you're away from your home base with it's nice dry hanger. Most people also report interior trim falling off or not being fitted properly in the first place. There is a thread running through most of the report I have about difficulty communicating problems to the service centers. The staff themselves generally perform trojan work, but parts can take a long time to arrive from suppliers (I wonder why...) and often take several attempts to fix the underlying problem. At least one of my correspondents thinks this is due to the high level of integration within the aircraft, which means software problems with Avio are confusing the mechanics and (to some extent) vice versa.

So, there you have it. An up to date report, complied from many sources, on the current state of the FPJ, as an aircraft. As mentioned on the top of this post, we await news on the Chapter 11 outcome for the company, both from Moscow/ETIRC and the Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where an appeal was lodged yesterday.

Spring approaches, as does the anniversary of the NG version of this blog. I'm just beginning to wonder if company (any version) will survive to help us celebrate the event, which takes place on Monday!


Friday, February 6, 2009

Eclipse is dead, long live Eclipski

According to the Governor of Ulyanovsk, Vladimir Putin has interceded on behalf of Eclipse Aviation. The Russian government has increased capitalization of the Vnesheconcom Bank by one hundred billion rubles, almost three billion dollars. Some of this is earmarked for ETIRC.

Asked for comment, a longtime Eclipse supporter said, “I’m just hoping they spend all of it on Eclipse… it would be a wise investment. Heck, for three billion dollars the Russians could annex the whole state of New Mexico. It would offset the bad deal they got on Alaska. I’m going to introduce the Governor of Ulyanovsk to Bill Richardson.”

Asked about the plane being built in Russia he added, “You know the Russians build great farm implements and heavy equipment. Right now the Eclipse 500 could use the robustness of a reliable farm tractor. I’m starting to study the Cyrillic alphabet so I can read the instrument panel. I can’t wait to take Putin for a ride in my jet.”

So we turn to another chapter in the Eclipse saga. Three billion down and three billion to go.

The company as we knew it will recede in the rearview mirror and we have unfinished business. Having had minor supporting roles in the investigations of PanAm 103 and TWA 800, I know survivors of aviation disasters need ‘closure’. Perhaps the blog can assist with this.

I propose an Eclipse Requiem Mass be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We need a mournful but uplifting piece of music, composed for the occasion. I suggest something along the lines of
Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, or perhaps Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi. With the broad array of talents represented here, there must be a composer in the house.

Several have written here on integrity and ethics but none more eloquently than Gadfly. He is a professed man of faith and is best suited among us to deliver the eulogy. We can expect a thought provoking speech on the mortal temptations of the flesh, tempered with hope for better days. He may wish to call on the members of congregation for their recollections of the departed so start mentally rehearsing your piece. The program will be printed in English, Dutch and Russian with tasteful Eclipse colors.

We need to consider the Eclipse Survivors Memorial. This should be located near the rim of the Meteor Crater in Winslow, Arizona. The soaring aluminum sculpture will of course be fashioned of friction stir welded aluminum. On the front will be the engraved names of all 260 initial owners. An epitaph at the bottom will read, “A small smoking crater beside a giant formerly-smoking crater.”

Smaller text on the back of the monument will list 10% depositors, 60% depositors, investors, employees, politicians, parts suppliers, motel operators and
taqueria owners. Affixed to the top of the memorial will be a life-size stature of Vern Raburn, reaching plaintively for the sky. He will be flanked by bronze replicas of the Collier Trophy and Cabot Award. The DayJet monument, complete with a working ant farm, will be located discretely nearby. We need a design competition for these memorials, to be judged by a team selected by Shane.

The dedication ceremony will draw cognoscenti from around the world. Sam Williams will be in back wearing dark glasses and a baseball cap. Bill Richardson will break into inconsolable tears. The service will end by spectators throwing rose petals, Eclipse apparel and memorabilia into the Meteor Crater (with the approval of the National Park Service, of course.) The crowd will retire for refreshments to a large Eclipse tent, preserved and replicating the vast presence and former glory at Oshkosh in year 2000.

Finally the Eclipse Fly-in at Sunriver, Oregon in September needs to be carefully orchestrated. It should be modeled after last year’s Legends aviation meet - billed as the last great roundup of P-51 Mustangs and the men who flew them during World War Two. It should culminate in an Eclipse flyby in the missing man formation. There won’t be a dry eye in the crowd.

We need volunteers. Can we count on the blog to assist Eclipse survivors in their one great hour of need?

As always, our very own Black Tulip blends truth (yes, Roel IS getting VEB support) with fiction in a delightful way. The remaining details have to be worked out, and I think it's very significant that the signing event is due to take place in Moscow on TUESDAY next week. Who says the Russians don't read the blog, or have a sense of humor?

Thanks again BT, and long may you continue to provide a 'sideways view' of our favorite American, sorry, Russian "Very Costly (sorry again, Delayed) Jet".

The tulip mania peaked in the Netherlands during the 1630s. The black tulip was the most sought after, until found to be biologically impossible.