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Looking Past Eclipse

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When the phone rang -- I think it was in 2002 -- I couldn't believe who was on the other end. Vern Raburn himself had deigned to grace me with a personal interview. As the new kid on the block at AVweb, I couldn't believe my good fortune. After all, Eclipse Aviation was the hottest item in aviation news, and I was likely the least known aviation journalist anywhere. I guess that's why he picked me.

Within a few questions, Raburn was on the defensive, and that's how it's been ever since.

Raburn and then Roel Pieper, who toppled him in a palace coup worthy of the finest Flashman novel, have spent the last six years explaining, apologizing, maneuvering and, ultimately, cutting and running on buyers, investors and employees who believed an impossible dream.

It didn't need to turn out this way.

For all the hype about new technology and building methods, the company ended up turning out a pleasant (but average) little airplane that would find a ready market at reasonable production levels and pricing.

And it could have been done mostly with off-the-shelf or emerging technology. Indeed, the "revolutionary" avionics suite that was to manage the aircraft (it's not really finished yet) isn't as capable, in many respects, as some recently-introduced handheld GPS units.

What Raburn et. al. should have seen, especially given their backgrounds in the computer business, is that some parts of the technology move at lightning pace, but the aerodynamic and thermodynamic forces that govern the parts of the plane that keep it in the air are pretty hard to change in the ways that would have been necessary for Eclipse to deliver on its promise.

The flight decks of all modern aircraft have been revolutionized in the last decade. Airframes and engines have evolved. Too bad for 260 owners of half-finished, orphaned airplanes, hundreds of investors and employees that Eclipse got it backwards.

And it's too bad for all of the aforementioned and the rest of us in aviation that it got this far.

Some have estimated that Eclipse burned $2 billion in its quest for a cheap jet. Some have also suggested that the money was essentially lost to aviation and could have been used to build viable products.

I disagree.

While there are some notable exceptions, I think it's fair to say that many of those who poured money into the project couldn't have cared less about aviation. They were lured by bells and whistles that amounted to little else, and much of that money would have gone elsewhere had it not been for Raburn's shameless skill at attracting investment.

While most of us are simply happy to see the end of a tortuous process, the timing is awful. With general aviation under the gun from all corners, this kind of collapse will only make it harder to rebuild an industry that has not only been pummeled by the market forces affecting all business but has been unfairly tarred as a symbol of greed and waste.

Unfortunately, sometimes the shoe fits, and, fair or not, the industry as a whole will have to wear it for some time.

So what's to be done about it? It's what the vast majority in aviation do every day, going about their business with honesty, integrity and a realistic sense of their place in the overall scheme. Although competition is vibrant in aviation, there's an underlying teamwork that makes it such a pleasure to pursue as a vocation.

And, in aviation like anything else, we learn from our mistakes. Eclipse has certainly provided an education.

Comments (40)

RIP Eclipse! You tried to be bold, Vern, but you dreamed too big. A lot of us wanted you to succeed. I knew that, if you could pull off the 1500 airplanes a year at $895,000, it would shake GA to its foundations. But at $1.5M+, and 300 planes a year, it couldn't happen.

I'm sorry for my 800 neighbors here in NM, but glad Eclipse didn't hire me 2 years ago when I was bugging them.

Can someone please tell me of a manufacturer with one model which has succeeded long term? I can't think of any.

Posted by: Marc Coan | February 25, 2009 5:27 AM    Report this comment

Marc, I have three words for you: Beechcraft King Air.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | February 25, 2009 6:05 AM    Report this comment

It is too bad that the investors, customers and employees got burnt. Unfortunately, this was a project destined to failure. The current economic situation probably accelerated the demise of Eclipse but the project was doomed from the beginning. High pressure sales hype and lots of pulling at the truth (lies) can not overcome the economic reality of aircraft design and manufacture. Having spent over 30 years in the aerospace industry, I saw this coming. You can't BS your way to success through a flawed business model. My condolences to the employees of the involved companies. I know how it feels to be out on the street. Been there done that and there now.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | February 25, 2009 7:56 AM    Report this comment

At the risk of too much discussion on a tangent: Jay, the King Air has been a fantastic line of airplanes for Beech, but it's neither a single model nor has it ever been the only model they've produced!

Posted by: Ryan Biggs | February 25, 2009 9:09 AM    Report this comment

At the risk of too much discussion on a tangent: Jay, the King Air has been a fantastic line of airplanes for Beech, but it's neither a single model nor has it ever been the only model they've produced!

Posted by: Ryan Biggs | February 25, 2009 9:09 AM    Report this comment

Beech King Air is part of a family of aircraft, proving my point.

Posted by: Marc Coan | February 25, 2009 9:11 AM    Report this comment

Okkay, but they're still building the King Air 90, the original model. If you're looking for a single model of a type that's been produced for more than a few years, you're going to be looking a long time...but you're also looking for something that doesn't mean much. Cessna's built 172s for a long, long time, but a particular model only lasts a few years at most and many models were just for a single year.

Dragging this back on topic, the Eclipse 500 wasn't the only type of Eclipse; it was just the only type that ever made it into production. Long-term successes, though? How many different types did Maule ever build at a time? For that matter, Mooney only offered one type at a time for much of its corporate life. How long did Cirrus just offer the SR20 before the SR22 came out? (A few years, according to the Cirrus site.) Having a range of aircraft is an advantage, but not really necessary for a company to succeed in the medium term.

It's more important that a company deliver on its promises, and that's where Eclipse fell flat. They never delivered on their promised aircraft. If they'd delivered the aircraft they'd promised, they probably could have sold a lot of them (though 3000 a year seems wildly optimistic), even at a more realistic price than the original $895K. I don't know if a more down-to-earth business plan could have saved the company if they'd delivered the promised aircraft, but not doing so sealed their fate.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | February 25, 2009 9:36 AM    Report this comment

It is perhaps premature to sink into despair or inflate concerns about damage to aviation arising from the Eclipse news. This sounds like one of those vaudeville routines about bad news (no, that's good news).

For all the angst about Eclipse, there are likely to be many positive developments to emerge, e.g., Piper and Cirrus jet development teams are probably smiling, and Cessna may be revising Mustang sales estimates. Rest assured there are other people and organizations with money and ideas who will be sifting through the Eclipse experience to capitalize on the potential market for lower cost personal jets. Meanwhile, advances continue in manufacturing, avionics, propulsion and deicing technology that will be useful to the next personal jet development team.

The history of aviation is littered with aircraft designs that didn't turn out to be commercial successes. But, the impetus to forge ahead is often derived from technology and systems of failed enterprises. Honda's current advertising program for hydrogen/fuel cell cars defines the key to success as "failure." It seems to be the way the world works. The second mouse gets the cheese!

Posted by: Keith Bumsted | February 25, 2009 12:26 PM    Report this comment

One only had to attend AirVenture for the last 10 years to see that huge amounts were being spent by Eclipse to sell the "sizzle, rather than the steak". In this one venue, Eclipse had become very visible as a MAJOR sponsor of just about everything-rivaling Ford and other giants. This before even one aircraft was delivered! This, and an unrealistic embrace of as yet uninvented technology-such as the origional Williams engines and the proposed cockpit displays, showed an arrogant disregard for investors and customers. This whole effort reminded me of Preston Tucker's hucksterish attempt to revolutionize the automobile. The regulators were also to blame, somehow caught up in this drunken orgy; lightning fast certification, relaxing engine-out standards, etc. The promised performance and sexy looks of the jet did seduce many of us, but, in reality, there are products out there, such as the TBM 850 (for all practical purposes, from a single product line), that have been proven to do a better job day in and day out. When you factor in the inevitable price increases that were coming, they would bave been very competative. It became apparent very early on, that the DAY JET model wasn't going to cause this huge demand that the FAA is still throwing up at us! In the beginning, it was pretty exciting to think that one could buy a real twin-engined jet for the price of a Baron, but we who have been involved in this industry over the long term should have been skeptical.

Posted by: Steve Tobias | February 26, 2009 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Iíve been around the industry for over 40-years. Early entrepreneurs like Bill Lear, Tony Fox, and Jim Bede have been reinvented as Adams and Rayburn, et al, in later years.

The reality is that the dynamic personalities that dictate a startup or engineering visionary are the same personalities that can doom the same startup. I had though it would be fun to be involved with these companies but having a family that liked to sleep and eat indoors, precluded that.

Rarely has the airframe itself or even poor economic times been the downfall of an airframe manufacturer. Adams, Rayburn, et al, should have stepped back from their companies long ago and let their ideas prosper under professionals that know how to build production aircraft, not prototypes many times over. Eclipsesí avionics line was a silly idea to start with, witness the first Citations with RCA panel mount radios and a Bendix Bulls-Eye flight director.

Those that do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately, those who suffer in the case of Eclipse are the workers and owners of the orphan aircraft, not the poor leading management.

Posted by: Larry Gray | February 26, 2009 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Remember that hindsight is always 20/20. As the owner of Eclipse serial #160 I can tell you that it is a pleasure to fly this most fuel efficient jet ever produced. I am hopeful that there will be on-going support for the aircraft and although it looks dismal at the moment at some point in the future I hope someone will pick up the pieces to begin manufacturing this aircraft again.

Posted by: john wright | February 26, 2009 10:07 AM    Report this comment

John, I hope you're right, but I think that more than likely the Eclipse 500 will be supporting in the way of Sabreliner (worked there), Mitsubishi ( hum, there too), and Aero Commander (weren't they part of Rockwell with Sabreliner?). Gosh, can I pick-em? Maybe I'm the kiss of death.

Posted by: Larry Gray | February 26, 2009 10:21 AM    Report this comment

Unfortunately, the fact remains: If GA is to remain viable in a period of higher fuel costs and flat economy, the Part 135 air taxi industry still need a plane that meets these requirements:

* Under 6000 lbs. (so customers don't have to pay the 7.5% federal excise tax) * Six seats, including 4 club * Pressurized * Turbine * 250-350 knot speed * 35-55 gph fuel consumption * 750 nm range with 1000 lb. payload * As far below $2M purchase price as possible.

The TBM 850 is too expensive and too heavy.

The Meridian SHOULD have been it, but they designed it for owner pilot + 2, range-wise. Completely ignored the business/air tax market.

(Plus, passengers have voted for jets over props for the past 50 years. And, if they are going to fly behind one engine, having a BRS is pure marketing genius factor for passengers...even if pilots know better.)

So, that leaves the D-Jet, which might fill the mission, but 5 in the cabin will be tight. The Cirrus VisionJet might do it, but the photos don't show club seating. The Piperjet will probably do it, but could they be any more obvious about it having ONE engine (and no BRS)?

So, I'm still waiting for the plane that will do what I consider to be a fairly basic mission.

Posted by: Marc Coan | February 26, 2009 10:37 AM    Report this comment

There's a very old saying that you can tell the pioneers by the arrows sticking in them. Ouch. Vern's legacy will be that he helped to create a sub-category ... the light jet market. Diamond, Cessna, Cirrus and others will full fill the promise of that market. Eclipse made for some very nice magazine covers the past 7 years. It allowed many single engine VFR pilots who stood in line at air shows waiting for a chance to sit in the cockpit to dream big dreams. And now, it takes its place in aircraft history ... a Delorean with wings. Sure, Vern may have made mistakes, but my hat is off to him for the courage to try. So many others talk but don't act.

Posted by: Charles Jessen | February 26, 2009 10:40 AM    Report this comment

Eclipse's problem is that Vern Raburn should have been ousted about 4 years ago. He did't understand that it takes a whole different set of skills to build a successful company than to think up a new airplane.

His use of assets to develope the single-engine jet before he had the kinks worked out on the original product and it's manufacturing was nothing short of criminal. But, you couldn't tell Vern anything. He is a legend in his own mind. Eclipse spent a lot of money on things that had nothing to do with building an airplane. The atmosphere around the office there was more reminiscent of dot com folks before that bust than a serious star-up airplane company. Guess I'll go decide which room I want to paper with my Eclipse stock. Anybody wanna guess?

In reply to Marc Coan's remark about the 135 industry needing a plane under 6000 pounds, I don't think I'd want to ride on one. Aircraft under 6000 don't have to show a climb at all at Vyse, only minimmum sink. Over 6000 it has to be able to climb at least 50 fpm at 5000 feet.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 26, 2009 6:22 PM    Report this comment

"Aircraft under 6000 don't have to show a climb at all at Vyse, only minimmum sink."

I only listed singles with BRS; your comment is therefore irrelevant.

Posted by: Marc Coan | February 26, 2009 6:38 PM    Report this comment

Linda Pendleton is the author of a book by the title: Flying Jets an excellent book on how to fly jet aircraft. She also worked with Eclipse for a peroiod of time. So, she is not some bystander making casual observations. You can believe what she says. I am an outsider. As an outsider, I also was under the impression that Eclipse management was good at making dreams, but where were the accountants? To continue taking deposits when insiders knew the company was not going to make it borders on fraud.

Posted by: john wright | February 26, 2009 7:27 PM    Report this comment

What would it take to resurrect the Eclipse project under a new name? The airframe is certified, and the obvious niche and customer base is still there. The engineering on the airframe is all done. Just put a G1000 in it and start production. What am I missing? I donít understand bankruptcy completely, but it sounds to me like if you let the creditors sell off all the company assets and let the dust settle, there is still everything that was learned in the last few years left over. Buy new production equipment and start under a new name where the old one stopped. This sounds like an entrepreneurial dream come true. I hope the Eclipse airframe comes back, with off the shelf avionics. It would definitely fly! (Pun intended) It already has.

Posted by: Carey Noorda | February 27, 2009 11:38 AM    Report this comment

I think that those that might have had an interest in the product, already had an oppurtunity to bid. Who would buy it? Cessna already has the superior Mustang, which is already selling for what the Eclipse would probably have to sell for to be a money-maker. Piper, Diamond, and Cirrus have already committed to their own versions. There would still be considerable costs in order to resume production and correct the developmental mistakes that have been made. Certifying it with G1000 alone would probably be an expensive nightmare. I think that it would have been a great airplane if it really did cost the same as a Baron, but at around 2.5 mil or so, it just doesn't cut it. I don't care how heavy the TBM 850 is, it is a better performing airplane that doesn't come with all of the insurabily issues. The bottom line on the TBM is that the pool of owner/pilots that are able to actually fly it without huge premiums or terribly involved type training is huge. Also, the single engine arguement doesn't hold water (forgive the pun) around my locale...there are summer days when the sky is darkened by all of the Caravan seaplanes flying people around New York.

Posted by: Steve Tobias | February 27, 2009 2:10 PM    Report this comment

I think that those that might have had an interest in the product, already had an oppurtunity to bid. Who would buy it? Cessna already has the superior Mustang, which is already selling for what the Eclipse would probably have to sell for to be a money-maker. Piper, Diamond, and Cirrus have already committed to their own versions. There would still be considerable costs in order to resume production and correct the developmental mistakes that have been made. Certifying it with G1000 alone would probably be an expensive nightmare. I think that it would have been a great airplane if it really did cost the same as a Baron, but at around 2.5 mil or so, it just doesn't cut it. I don't care how heavy the TBM 850 is, it is a better performing airplane that doesn't come with all of the insurabily issues. The bottom line on the TBM is that the pool of owner/pilots that are able to actually fly it without huge premiums or terribly involved type training is huge. Also, the single engine arguement doesn't hold water (forgive the pun) around my locale...there are summer days when the sky is darkened by all of the Caravan seaplanes flying people around New York.

Posted by: Steve Tobias | February 27, 2009 2:10 PM    Report this comment

I say goodbye and good riddance to Eclipse. I feel bad for the deposit holders who were left holding the bag but the company was always doomed. Supporters seemed awed by the company in an almost religious way. Even five years ago they ignored specific problems in a way that only true believers can. Eclipse set the original price point so low they killed potential investment in other jet designs that might have been much more viable. When the low price was challenged as unsustanable, the supporters claimed that new technology eg. stir welding, would prove the naysayers wrong. Instead, all that it proved was you can sell a product for half of what it costs until you run out of money. The damage done to the VLJ market will take a generation to be undone.

Posted by: todd stuart | February 27, 2009 6:44 PM    Report this comment

A friend said, the way to make a million dollars in Corporate Aviation is to invest two million.

Posted by: Larry Gray | March 2, 2009 8:32 AM    Report this comment

The new guy wants to offer 100 planes a year at $2.4M. That doesn't compute...I'd buy a Mustang for that and have Cessna backing me. Plus, as I said above, that doesn't work for the air taxi market.

Posted by: Marc Coan | March 2, 2009 8:44 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the kind comments, John. Wish we could have had the chance to work together.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 2, 2009 12:35 PM    Report this comment

Could someone explain why people had so much confidence in Eclipse after the Williams jet issue? After that, it never looked like they'd be able to meet their price/production volume predictions, but people kept putting down deposits to the end. What justified peoples' confidence in Eclipse in the last 3-4 years? Or was it just that people wanted it to happen that bad?

Posted by: Mike Zippy | March 4, 2009 10:23 AM    Report this comment

Mr Rayburn and company were long on sizzle and short on steak. Snake oil salesmen always promise more than can be delivered. The advertising ignored the reality of the design. Emptor caveat don't believe everything that you see on the internet.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | March 4, 2009 10:29 AM    Report this comment

"Could someone explain why people had so much confidence in Eclipse after the Williams jet issue?"

Mike,

The demise of the Williams engine was really one of the better things that happened to Eclipse. Pratt & Whitney believed in Eclipse and committed funds to develop an engine for the airplane. The Pratt engine was far better than the Williams would ever have been. I've flown between Pratts of one kind or another for over 6500 hours and they've never let me down.

I really think Vern got tired of the nitty gritty of trying to get a manufacturing line working smoothly --- why else would he go off and commit money and assets to his single engine jet. Project #1 was not complete yet.

Eclipse also had very inexperienced sales/demo pilots flying the machines. Labor Day weekend of 2005 a test pilot and a sales pilot (the sales pilot had 0 jet time) managed to belly an Eclipse at ABQ. One of the instructors Eclipse used had less than 1000 total time and his ONLY jet time was in an Eclispe. Had he been a customer he would have required a long course of mentoring. Flying jets is more than being able to take off and land and handle engine out procedures. Flight in the high flight levels is a whole different ball game.

Linda

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 4, 2009 10:54 AM    Report this comment

If you haven't listened to the podcast interviews with Vern over at www.aero-news.net, you should. His comments counterbalance a lot of the incorrect speculation by naysayers, posted here and elsewhere over the past 10 years. It's worth a listen: http://www.aero-news.net/fb/index.cfm?do=podcasts.home

Posted by: Marc Coan | March 4, 2009 11:10 AM    Report this comment

Thanks, Linda. Good observation.

Still, as an outsider, it seems that their cost/volume targets never looked realistic to me. For all of the criticism one can level at the Eclipse Critic blogs (the general level of vitriol), they seemed to get the finance/market/price issues generally correct. Eclipse wasn't able to make their high-volume/low-cost model work, and I haven't seen evidence that convinces me that it ever could, even with better economic times.

I've listened to Vern before (although I haven't listened to his latest on Aero-news), and the guy seems to have a reality-suspension field a mile wide. His dismissal of the "dinosaurs" of the industry seems a bit cheeky, especially in light of the fact that Cessna is delivering a more capable product at a price that is little more than the current likely sale price of the Eclipse.

It seems that Vern's assumptions that he could fundamentally rewrite the cost of production/volume/capability equation of the light jet market were unsound. It looked unsound to me for years, and I'm simply wondering what other people saw that convinced them that it was sound (to the tune of giving Vern something on the order of a billion dollars, and lord knows how many deposits/up-front payments).

Posted by: Mike Zippy | March 5, 2009 11:31 AM    Report this comment

Vern says volume wasn't the issue; outsourcing was. He was counting on aerospace suppliers to be as reliable as they are in the automotive and high tech industries and was shocked to find out they aren't. From the avionics, to the first engine, to the tail section, the suppliers weren't able to deliver a quality product on time. He said if he could do it again, he'd dramatically reduce the amount of outsourcing and keep more of it in-house. But my opinion is that, except for airframe components, it wasn't the outsourcing itself, but the choice of suppliers: Garmin could have delivered the avionics on time and on budget, but he didn't use them. Pratt obviously did deliver the engines on time, but he chose to use Williams' untested technology, etc.

Posted by: Marc Coan | March 5, 2009 11:53 AM    Report this comment

"I've listened to Vern before (although I haven't listened to his latest on Aero-news), and the guy seems to have a reality-suspension field a mile wide. His dismissal of the "dinosaurs" of the industry seems a bit cheeky, especially in light of the fact that Cessna is delivering a more capable product at a price that is little more than the current likely sale price of the Eclipse."

Vern is a VERY intelligent man, although not quite so much as he thinks. He believes he is always right and will use how ever many four letter words it takes to make you tire of the discussion and give up.

Vern and I disagreed many times on the method and time required to train new, many low time, pilots in the Eclipse. He thought it could be done in a week. I knew it would take longer. He told me I was wrong despite the fact that I've been putting folks in jets since 1986 and have been an instructor for 34 years and he's never even held the rating. You couldn't tell the man anything.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 5, 2009 6:49 PM    Report this comment

But, Linda, give a litle credit where due: 260 aircraft delivered, including to many pilots with little or no jet time, and not one fatality in tens of thousands of hours of flying (so far). Not saying that there won't be any in the future, but it hasn't been "doctors falling from the skies" as predicted.

Posted by: Marc Coan | March 5, 2009 9:22 PM    Report this comment

I'm a little skeptical of the supplier remark. Other companies have successfully produced airplanes using these suppliers (including Mitsubishi, if I remember correctly, for the wings). If the state of the industry, then he didn't do his due diligence in thinking they would.

For a good article that presents the dissenting view of Eclipse before Vern left, or before Roel Piper came in, you might want to view this Conde Nast Portfolio article.

http://www.portfolio.com/executives/features/2007/08/13/Jets-of-the-Future

Posted by: Mike Zippy | March 6, 2009 5:43 AM    Report this comment

Sorry - meant to say, "If the state of the industry didn't support his plans, then he didn't do his due diligence in thinking they would."

Posted by: Mike Zippy | March 6, 2009 8:44 AM    Report this comment

One more thing - Years ago, aviation industry analyst Richard Aboulafia called BS on many of the assumptions on which Eclipse based its business model. Sorry to flog a dead horse, my point is that Eclipse's unsustainability was foreseeable, and I'm surprised that venture capitalists seemed to ignore the signs. Of course, I'm sure that many of them figure that most of their investments are dry wells, and the one gusher makes their money back tenfold.

One more thing on suppliers - I was surprised that he was using some of the avionics suppliers that he did, because I was skeptical that they could support the volume and development effort he wanted. I don't think he had any understanding of building in an FAA certification environment, and that is what led to the disconnect between his estimates of the electronics/automotive industry and the aerospace industry. I think that the practices he called "dinosaur" practices were, in fact, necessary to build to FAA certification.

http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=123 http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=211 http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=241 http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=277 http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=282

Posted by: Mike Zippy | March 6, 2009 8:57 AM    Report this comment

Sorry - my links got munged when I posted.

http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=123

http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=211

http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=241

http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=277

http://www.richardaboulafia.com/shownote.asp?id=282

Posted by: Mike Zippy | March 6, 2009 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Most of the excellent safety record is due to the mentor pilots flying with thosse new pilots, but still there was an incident at MDW that they got lucky on and showed some serious lacks in the training program.

You know that the physical actions needed to fly an airplane are not something that cannot be accomplished by anyone who can drive a stick shift car. I'm sure there are many brand new instrument pilots out there who can fly a much tighter ILS than I can at this point in time with my over 1500 hours of actual, but with a of a few months. What's gonna get folks in trouble are the things that you learn by experience. The stuff your brain picks up and tucks away without you ever really being aware of it. The stuff that comes to the surface when you really need it and saves your bacon without you really even knowing how or why.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 6, 2009 4:04 PM    Report this comment

Most of the excellent safety record is due to the mentor pilots flying with thosse new pilots, but still there was an incident at MDW that they got lucky on and showed some serious lacks in the training program.

You know that the physical actions needed to fly an airplane are not something that cannot be accomplished by anyone who can drive a stick shift car. I'm sure there are many brand new instrument pilots out there who can fly a much tighter ILS than I can at this point in time with my over 1500 hours of actual, but with a of a few months. What's gonna get folks in trouble are the things that you learn by experience. The stuff your brain picks up and tucks away without you ever really being aware of it. The stuff that comes to the surface when you really need it and saves your bacon without you really even knowing how or why.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 6, 2009 4:04 PM    Report this comment

One of Vern's best ideas was that most jets currently produced are hand made and one-up. If you need a new windscreen for your Lear/Citation/Falcon, it comes without being drilled for the rivets because each one is different. Vern't idea was that the parts would be more like auto parts -- a new windscreen would come drilled to fit that day. No rubber mallets needed to make things fit. Friction stir welding was also an excellent concept -- it's much stronger than riveting, much quicker to accomplish, and much more aerodynamic. Vern envisioned an assembly line more like Detroit than traditional airplane construction.

Various suppliers had various problems. The person selected to be the liason with Avidyne was a sharp kid -- emphasis on kid -- but NO real aviation experience. Avidyne to me has the best interface I've seen. You can intuitively see which button you need to push without reading a two-inch manual. It's much less cluttered and very logical. They just weren't managed properly.

Vern's a brilliant idea guy. With people, not so much.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | March 6, 2009 4:12 PM    Report this comment

I followed the Eclipse story from its beginning. With all the money that was thrown at the project, it should have resulted in a marketable, solidly built aircraft. The two main issues that killed the company was the concept of building a certified twin-engine jet for less than $2 million and the push to simultaneously develop the aircraft and a mass-production facility with all with "new" technology. They simply burned through money when what they should have done as a startup is focus on aircraft development (the product) with a small team and get the aircraft fully certified. Given the obvious access to financing, Eclipse could then have focused on production. Managing cash flow is imperative as a startup. Gulfstream, Cessna, and Embraer have the certification process down to rocket science. It is a shame that the Eclipse as an enterprise destroyed so much capital and more importantly, negatively impacted so many lives.

Posted by: Robert Hollman | March 13, 2009 11:09 AM    Report this comment

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