Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

No doubt there are some happy folks down in Albuquerque as 'eclipseblogger' informed us earlier this evening that the company had received a Certificate of Airworthiness for the first production aircraft.

This paved the way for the first delivery as well.

Congratulations are certainly in order for both achievements.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holidays

Christmas is just a couple of days away, time for one more chorus of kaptain kool-aid's rendition of the twelve days of Christmas:

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Vern Raburn sent to me
Twelve mentors crying
Eleven vendors griping,
Ten service bulletins,
Nine loosened bushings,
Eight lame excuses,
Seven cracking windshields,
Six owners bitching,
Five cramped seats,
Four more delays,
Three blank screens,
Two larger tanks,
AND A SCAM FROM ALBUQUERQUE!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Guest Contribution - Eclipse Correspondence

yenolo provided the following, I guess it means we won't be seeing 50 units delivered by the end of the year, or ah make that 10, or ah maybe just 3 or 4...just wait until next year, were gonna do 500:

Dear Eclipse customers:

As we anticipate the end of 2006 we can reflect upon a year of great strides, frequent challenges and significant progress. As the year ends, I and all of the Eclipse Aviation employees wish to extend to all of you a peaceful and joyous holiday season. We want to wish you a happy New Year.

Prior to the end of the year, I want to update you on the manufacturing progress and recent developments at Eclipse Aviation.

We are making steady but slow progress toward delivering the first aircraft and obtaining our production certificate. The FAA has been very good about staying over weekends and is working diligently with our team to evaluate our manufacturing and quality processes. The 37th aircraft has now started friction stir welding and there are 11 aircraft in final assembly positions resting on their own landing gear. Production aircraft three has completed production flight test and recently emerged from our new Sunport 3 paint facility with a black and red striped LX-3 paint scheme. Two additional aircraft are in production flight test and should fly sometime this week depending on the Albuquerque winter weather.

I am also happy to report that the pre-production flight test fleet is progressing as expected through the fleet wide modification period. N505EA has been flying for more than two weeks and has been performing exceptionally well. This aircraft has been flown by the FAA and is being used to validate the training program. N502EA will be back in the air by the end of this week with the larger tip tanks. In January, N503EA and N504EA will also be back online. So, overall, you should feel confident that the flight test fleet will be completely up and running at the beginning of 2007 with the goal to certify the remaining performance modifications as soon as possible.

On an organizational note, I also want to let you know that our CFO, Peter Reed, has decided to retire at the end of this month. Peter will turn 62 next year and wants to transition from the hectic 80 plus hour work week that he has done for 35+ years to a lifestyle where he can afford the time to travel with his wife. While we are sad to lose a great and long-time team member, we wish Peter the best of luck in his much deserved retirement. I must emphasize that this is in no way whatsoever related to the health of Eclipse Aviation. Peter will be the first to tell you that his past seven plus years at Eclipse have been both rewarding and challenging. He is proud to have participated in our growth from two employees (Peter was the second Eclipse employee) with only a concept to almost 1,000 employees and a certified aircraft. A search for Peter's replacement is underway.

As I promised in an earlier communication, we will continue to give you regular updates on the progress at Eclipse Aviation. The next communication will come in January, following the holiday break.

Your Customer Care team will be available for routine business December 27th, 28th and 29th. In January routine business will commence on Tuesday, January 2nd. In the event of a serious problem during the holiday period, please call the Eclipse Aviation main number at 505-724-1140 and customer care will be notified to return your call.

Once again, thank you for your continued support and contributing to a great and monumental 2006.

Sincerely,

Vern Raburn

President & CEO

Saturday, December 16, 2006





Friction Stir Welding

The Wichita morning paper did a story on the Advanced Joining Laboratory which is part of the National Institute for Aviation Research which is part of the Wichita State University.

The article quoted Cessna CEO Jack Pelton as follows:

"We have spent time in research and development learning and understanding the process to see what the applicability may be for use. We did not come to the conclusion that it was viable for our products."

The article further stated, Cessna would consider it only for a new airplane that would have a long production run or large quantities of orders. That's because the change in process would require a large investment on the company's part.


The FSW images and the following paragraphs were added Sunday afternoon. To give credit where credit is due, some of the comments against this post may appear to parrot what is written here, but in fact, the comments were written first, therefore, the post parrots the comments.

Setting the corrosion issue aside, one can make a case for FSW only in very high production situations. Capital costs for the equipment is high and it takes a dedicated holding fixture for nearly every FSW joint. Notice in the image how close the clamps are to the work area, and a roller precedes the spinning mandrel to ensure the materials to be joined have a zero gap.

There are not many sheet metal parts that lend themselves to FSW. A conventional rib with the upper and lower flanges going the same way cannot be FSW. You gotta have clear blue sky above the joint. We envision Fuji FSW the wings. That ain't happening!

I can see some spanwise stringers or stiffeners being FSW, and ribs maybe on one wing skin if the the upper and lower flanges point in different directions. Otherwise, I suspect Fuji does like every other manufacturer, find the guy with the longest and skinniest arm, and introduce him to a bucking bar.

Another requirement for FSW, parts must be made very accurately for a good fit for welding. For years Vern has boasted of the precision parts going in the Eclipse. I can attest to the tight tolerances, tight enough that it adds to the difficulty in building the parts, tight enough that it is difficult for QC to check the parts.

Vern's argument is that his precision parts will speed assembly. Absolutely true! I think that what he failed to realize was that it would mean more non-conforming parts that add to costs and add to the paper work in trying to get them bought off to use in production.
I suspect one delay in getting an Airworthiness Certificate on the first production airplane and ultimately the Production Certificate will relate to the decision to set the bar high for themselves with such tight tolerances for all of their parts.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Guest Contribution - Eclipse Correspondence

bambazonke posted the following three messages from Eclipse. They were a bit off the radar screen and deserve higher visibility:

Of utmost importance to Eclipse is the trust that you, our customer community, has placed in us. More specifically, we are sensitive to your concerns that our production schedule will not be met and that the additional payment (to bring your cumulative deposit up to sixty percent) is therefore premature.

To address your concerns Eclipse is announcing that for customers with a scheduled delivery date on or before September 30, 2007, we will reduce your final payment due at delivery by 0.5% per month (6% annual interest rate) of the additional payment we are asking you to pay now.

Attached is an Aircraft Purchase Agreement Addendum that will be added to all Aircraft Purchase Agreements where aircraft delivery is scheduled on or before September 30, 2007. Please note that Eclipse has a one-month grace period before the interest calculation takes affect.

Sincerely,
Vern RaburnPresident & CEO

and another one;

Earlier this year, we announced that the Eclipse 500 had fallen short of our guaranteed performance numbers and we declared a refund event. At the same time we committed to a plan to improve those performance numbers. We also told you that there would be two different configurations of the airplane based on our implementation plan for the performance improvements.

The following Customer Technical Communication outlines the final Eclipse 500 Performance Improvement Program and I am pleased to report that the performance improvement program has met our expectations. Through engineering re-design and flight testing, Eclipse has identified and tested improvements that enable the Eclipse 500 to achieve the promised speed of 370 knots (TAS) and 1,125 nm range (NBAA IFR with 100 nm alternate).

In addition, contrary to our previously announced plans, Eclipse is now committing to go beyond our initial pledge. We will retrofit all aircraft with these performance modifications, ensuring that there is a singular aircraft fleet with the above mentioned performance numbers.

I, and the entire Eclipse team, are listening to you, our customers and working diligently to deliver your Eclipse 500.

Sincerely,
Vern RaburnPresident & CEO

Customer Technical Communication Item No.: 2006-12-004
Title: Eclipse 500 Performance Improvement ProgramOverview:

This past summer, Eclipse Aviation revealed the performance numbers for the Eclipse 500 and the plans to improve those numbers. We are pleased to report that the performance improvement program is progressing quite well. Through engineering re-design and flight testing, Eclipse has identified and tested improvements that enable the Eclipse 500 to achieve the promised speed of 370 knots (TAS) and 1,125 nm range (NBAA IFR with 100 nm alternate). In addition, contrary to our previously announced plans, Eclipse has now decided to retrofit all aircraft with these performance modifications (paying for labor and parts), ensuring that there is a singular aircraft fleet.

Background:

The initially-certified Eclipse 500 has fallen short of its performance guarantees in speed and range. Eclipse embarked on a performance improvement program one year ago to improve this situation and committed to meeting the speed guarantee of 375 knots (TAS) +/- 2.5%, but would not meet the range guarantee of 1280 nm +/- 5%. This work resulted in a plan that would yield a speed of 370 knots (TAS) and a 1,125 nm range (NBAA IFR with 100 nm alternate).

Based on that fact that the Eclipse 500 would not meet the published range, Eclipse declared a refund event for our customers. During this event, Eclipse announced a performance improvement plan that included different modifications for the first 100 aircraft versus subsequent aircraft. The first 100 aircraft would only see a speed of 360 knots and a range of 1,055 nm. Additionally, Eclipse committed to its customers that the company would continue to explore the possibility of retrofitting additional improvements to these aircraft. We realized that the best and most expeditious solution is to have one fleet; therefore, we will be retrofitting all aircraft with the performance improvements that yield a speed of 370 knots (TAS) and 1,125 nm range (NBAA IFR with 100 nm alternate).

Corrective Action:

To date, two flight test aircraft have been fitted with the extended tip tanks (ETT). Additionally, one of these aircraft has also been fitted with additional prototype performance modifications. This aircraft has completed development flight testing and proven that these modifications will give the anticipated performance results. Once the wing bushing installation is completed (due to the previously communicated wing issue) on these two aircraft, we will start the certification program for these improvements. Procurement of the production parts and mod kits are well under way.

The changes to the airplane to achieve this performance include:

1. Extended tip tanks (ETT): ETT modifications are finalized and add 25 gallons of fuel.

2. Horizontal/vertical (bullet) fairing: A newly-designed tail bullet fairing has been incorporated to smooth out the flow between the interface to the horizontal and vertical stabilizers.

3. Flight controls: We have added covers over the hinges on the elevators, rudders, and ailerons. The elevator and rudders have been extended eliminating the gurney tabs that added significant drag. This change has also improved the control forces.

4. Engine pylon and nacelle: The pylon skin will be stiffened and the trailing edges modified. In addition, the lower nacelle panel has been modified to reduce the aerodynamic losses.

5. Landing gear and wheel assembly: Main landing gear fairings and more aerodynamic wheel covers have been added.

6. Engine thrust schedule adjustment: The Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) software will be changed to enable thrust preservation at cruise altitudes from 25,000 feet through the certified max altitude of 41,000 feet. This is NOT an increase in the 900-pound thrust rating of the engine, but results in more thrust at typical jet cruise altitudes.

7. Miscellaneous: Drain hole scupper and rig pin hole covers have been aerodynamically improved.

Note:

Modifications to the wing de-ice system are no longer needed to achieve these performance numbers.Aircraft

Operational Impact:

The results of the performance improvement program have been phenomenally successful. With the drag reduction fixes in place, we now have data and flight testing that give high confidence that the speed and range specifications will meet the target of 370 knots (TAS) and 1,125nm (NBAA IFR range with 100 nm alternate). These improvements will be reflected in an updated Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM) and Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM).

Implementation of Modifications:

* All aircraft will be modified to meet the specification of 370 knots (TAS) and 1,125 nm (NBAA IFR range with 100 nm alternate)* Aircraft modification will be conducted at an Eclipse Service Center.

* Eclipse will assume the cost of the modification (labor and parts only). The modification is estimated to take three weeks. We are working various approaches to reduce this time.

* At this time, we expect to have this configuration certified sometime between mid-March and mid-April 2007.

* We are refining a production incorporation plan that deliver aircraft with these full modifications immediately upon certification of the configuration.

* Aircraft delivered prior to certification of this configuration will be modified on an as-scheduled basis after aircraft delivery. This activity will be coordinated through Customer Care, which will be providing further information in the coming weeks to clarify specific serial number impact, and provide more detailed performance data and modification details.

THIS IS NOT AN ECLIPSE AVIATION SERVICE BULLETIN.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

TC & PC, More in Depth

I have thought about writing this post for months, but the subject is so tedious, it was easy to put off. The machinations of Vern and his double speak was far more interesting as were other diversions like Brooke Shields. BTW, lest you think I might have overstated her appearance, I added to the Extreme Views post, her photo leaving a Rome Hotel on the way to Tom's wedding. A pretty sharp chick!

Back on topic, the blog is intended to be informative and at times entertaining. But this post is just plain boring though it might help explain some of the problems facing Eclipse as they seek to obtain their Production Certificate and why the window and wing fitting problem is not related to Airworthiness Certificates for the upcoming deliveries.

TC

Type Certification is the responsibility of a regional ACO (Aircraft Certification Office). For the Eclipse, the Ft. Worth ACO. The role of this office is to ensure the applicant (Eclipse) complies with the technical requirements of 14 CFR Part 23, Part 34 and Part 36.

Every part in the airplane will have a discrete number tied to the drawing that creates the part. Also on the drawing will be a "Used On" number or the link to the next assembly drawing where the part is mated to other parts. This sub-assembly feeds a larger one and the process repeated until the major sub-assemblies like wings and fuselages feed into a single drawing, the completed airplane. Known in the industry as the "top drawing", it defines the airplane. Its number and revision level is stated in the Type Data Sheet. The important thing to remember is that each part in the airplane is linked to the "top drawing".

Any change to any drawing must be reviewed as to the significance of the change. Major changes like adding larger tip tanks will result in some level of retesting and re-certification. The new aircraft definition will be reflected by either a new "top drawing" number or a revision to the original. Minor changes can be written off (pencil whipped) by analysis.

This procedure is part of what fossilizes the aircraft industry, changes are not easy and everything is controlled.

With regards to the wing and window problem, it's the ACO's call. They are confident the windows are good for 50 hours and apparently satisfied the bushings in the wing fitting were not installed correctly. The company can fix the windows at their convenience, the operators will need to swap them out at the prescribed intervals.

Whatever spacers were needed adjacent to the bushings could be added and treated as a minor change and written off.


PC

Production Certificates are issued by an FAA MIDO (Manufacturing and Inspection District Office). A PC gives the company authority to inspect each airplane and is intended to ensure that every airplane that is given a Certificate of Airworthiness, is built exactly to the design that was certified by the ACO. To achieve this, the company drafts a Quality Control Manual that describes in detail how the manufacturing process shall operate. Here are some basics:

Let's start with that discrete part mentioned earlier and assume it is a small aluminum sheet metal bracket.

Purchasing orders a quantity of sheet aluminum of a certain thickness. Before the order is issued, QC (Quality Control) has to review and sign off on the P.O. to ensure the material is ordered to the proper specification.

The material is received on the receiving dock, QC checks the material against the P.O., verifies the markings against the material certification documents provided with the aluminum and files the "certs".

The material goes into a controlled stockroom.

Manufacturing control issues an order for let's say 20 of the discrete parts. A planning sheet which exists for the discrete part is produced. It says to go to the stockroom and obtain 20 blanks of a particular size. The operator who pulls the blanks signs his name to the planning sheet, a QC inspector verifies the blanks and signs the planning sheet.

The parts are cut to shape and deburred per instructions on the planning. The operator signs the sheet, the parts are inspected and QC signs as well.

Next the parts are formed. Two more signatures from the operator and QC inspector.

The parts may get heat treated and/or corrosion protection. Again two more signatures on the planning.

Then the batch of 20 parts is part marked with the part number, production control's job number, the date and the inspectors stamp which signifies that every interim step on the planning sheet was bought off and the parts conform to the original drawing. This completed planning sheet now becomes a permanent record for the company.

Next manufacturing control will release an order and a planning sheet to build a sub-assembly for a particular aircraft serial number. One of the first items on the planning will be a list of all the parts needed for the sub-assembly. Our discrete part will get pulled along with the others. The operator will sign off on the planning as will a QC inspector.

The planning will detail step-by-step the assembly instructions, drill out the pilot holes, add nut plates etc. At interim steps, the operator will sign off, the work inspected and signed off by QC. Upon completion, the planning sheet will go into the permanent records related to a specific serial number. And so it goes until a completed airplane rolls off the assembly line.

This process applies to all sub-contractors. Their signed off planning sheets and functional test results must accompany the item they are supplying. The records will either go into general files or files specific to a particular airplane serial number.

The process applies in one form or another to everything that is covered by the "top drawing" from rivets to the engines.

The QC manual will have the company organization chart that will show some level of independence from manufacturing.

The QC manual will identify every device used in the inspection process and provide a tracking number along with a schedule for validating the device.

If an inspector on the shop floor has a six-inch pocket scale he uses to check parts, it must have an engraved tracking number and be periodically checked for condition and accuracy back to the U.S. Bureau of Standards.

Same for pressure gages used to check tire pressure or exotic electronic devices for checking systems.

The QC manual will define how often the assembly jigs should be checked and a procedure will be written for each jig. The equipment used to check the assembly jigs will get periodic checks back to the Bureau of Standards.

Then there is the validation of functionality of systems. Take for instance the landing gear. There will be detailed instructions to place the airplane on jacks, hook up a power cart and cycle the gear so many times, and record cycle times etc. Even pressure gages to check strut and tire pressures will get validated on a regular basis.


Relating this to Vern's recent statements, in his open letter to customers, he talked about two quality escapes. The first "aircraft build instructions" which I assume means his "planning", either for detail parts or for the assemblies was not complete. The second escape was, "clarity of functional test procedure". This probably relates to incomplete system testing before various systems were installed or just after.

What I don't understand is how you go back after the fact and show everything in compliance, but I am sure there is a way. Eclipse is not the first to run into these kinds of problems with the FAA.

On the AIN report, Vern stated that because Eclipse was asking for a PC rather than just an Airworthiness Certificate on an individual airplane, that there was a "more extensive inspection process". I don't know what he is talking about. You demonstrate to the FAA that all the elements are in place in the QC Manual and that they are rigorously followed for the first few airplanes and they award the PC.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Posturing - But for what reason?

After an uncharacteristically long period of silence, Vern has emerged and is once again posturing. His recent mea culpa to customers was a shameless plea for money.

The airplane does not do what we said it will do. We want to deliver units that have severe limitations and will need mods at some future time, and we have just been fun'n you on delivery dates. When we say a few days, we really mean a few months and we promise to be more forthright when we encounter problems, though you have to understand that it is sometimes hard to reveal all of our secrets because we don't want our competition to exploit the situation, they have stolen enough from us as it is. Just trust us, show your love and support for Vern. Get out that check book and write us up for another half-mill. I can look out my window now and see your airplane coming down the production line.

Then the latest is Capt. Zoom's interview, www.aero-news.net 11-30-06. We can always count on Capt. Zoom to toss Vern those really tough questions.

Here is what Vern said was delaying buy off for the first airplane, "To approve a Production Certificate, the FAA requires detailed written guidance on both the building and inspection process."

Had Vern been reading this blog, he might have noted my statement last September, one of the objectives of the PC is to provide "100% accountability, who did the work, who did the inspection."

Vern claims he will build 500 units next year. This boast is no different than his boast that he would start delivering airplanes a few days after receiving the Type Certificate. After six years in the aircraft industry, he did not understand the basics of the FAA quality requirements until a couple of weeks ago when he and his QC people went to Ft. Worth for a sit down with the FAA and took the 101 course in FAR Part 21.

He still maintains Eclipse will deliver 500 units in CY 2007. Neither Vern nor I suspect anyone on his staff, has went from zero to 500 in 365 days. It is another hollow boast that will not happen but he will have some poor supplier to blame. I can hear the words now, "Eclipse could have done it if so and so had not let us down."

Further down in the interview he gives himself an A+ for "achievements in design and certification."

The airplane has fallen well short of its performance goals, his highly touted breakthroughs in avionic systems integration have yet to see the light of day and certification delays have been measured in years. This deserves an A+ grade?

IMO this kind of posturing is setting the stage for an IPO as soon as the first airplane is delivered. Ramping up production takes big bucks. Company survival in the near term may depend on those 60% progress payments due for those airplanes Vern projects will deliver before June 30. 2007. Then an infusion of cash from an IPO would provide sustaining capital until....they run out of money again.

Prediction from this end, look for a very proactive Vern, out on the stump, providing reassurance that all is well and the company and it's airplane will provide stellar performance in 2007. It is such a good deal we are going to let the investing public share in the bounty. Get your check book ready.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Wing Fittings

The attached photo was taken at Oshkosh 2003.

The suspect wing fitting is just above the flap track in the image. It is not real beefy so it was never intended to carry much load.

The forward link is also pretty light and would not be able to do much work, leaving the center or main spar fitting to carry the majority of the wing loads.

All of this has been static tested to the predicted loads. It is conceivable the bushing in the aft fitting was incorrectly installed causing the .100" slop. It is also conceivable loads in the real world were higher than predicted causing the the holes to elongate.

In either event, a fix would not be too tough to achieve.

Saturday, November 25, 2006



Extreme Views

En route home during the 9+ hours across the Atlantic, I got to thinking about how the extreme views towards the Eclipse have changed in the 7 months since this blog started.

On one side there were those who held Vern had overreached and the program was doomed for failure. On the other side, that Vern would succeed and would achieve most, if not all of his goals.

In the ensuing months, the difficulties at Eclipse have been validation for the prophets of doom. On the other side, these same difficulties have made it harder to maintain the faith for those who one day expected Vern to walk on water.

Were not talking about teething problems typical with new companies and new products. This is a troubled company with numerous problems that may be spiraling out of control. From a technical standpoint, the wing fitting is probably not a big deal, the glass problem is potentially far more serious.

I don't buy into the fatigue explanation. It sounds more like a fundamental design problem. Band aid fixes might work, then again, a real fix might mean some serious structural modifications. The principles of glass installations are pretty well understood, provide uniform support around the periphery and don't allow any stress concentrations with clamping forces or fasteners.

The cumulative effect of the various problems is now beginning to bite. Just consider the FAA's role in the program. Last July, the Marion Blakey, the FAA Administrator on the occasion awarding the Provisional Type Certificate proclaimed, "What I have in my hand is probably the most significant piece of paper in America today, a piece of paper that will truly change the face of aviation." A powerful statement and one that should have greased the skids for final certification and the Production Certificate.

Things don't work that way in the real world. Technical problem after technical problem make the FAA foot soldiers more wary. They will look twice at everything because these guys and gals do not want to risk making a decision that might cost lives, cost them their jobs and their hard earned pensions.

One comment suggested the board of directors should be taking a harder look at the company. Who do they answer to, Vern or the investors? When the subject of an IPO gets serious, watch these guys scatter like rabbits. In this day of post-Enron scandals, boards are being held responsible for corporate malfeasance and it may not be that much fun to be on the board of the world's greatest airplane company.

At what point do the current investors get nervous? Technical problems won't hurt their image because technical failure is a common occurrence for new products that push the limits. Questionable business practices and loss of millions of dollars of customers deposit money, put up in good faith, is another matter. Failures here are going to reflect back on the investors and their carefully manicured images.

How long can Vern keep the vendors on board. The story that "were gonna turn this thing loose next week or next month" is going to get to be too familiar. And one wonders if they still expect to schedule their deliveries for 1,000 units per year or is it 500 or even 200?

In July, the infusion of another $200 million looked like all the money the company would need to get the production line going. Then let's see, there was the delivery of another 50 or so units by the end of 2006 which would bring in another $50 million or so. The cash flow manager must have been one happy dude...may not be sleeping so well today. Where will the next $200 million come from?

Had a great trip, it was good to get away, will share a couple of memories from Italy:

Florence, the museum of science. Great display of Leonardo da Vinci's note books and drawings. Plus the holy grail of aviation, his "Codex on the Flight of Birds" dated 1505-1506 which diagramed a mechanism which man could use to fly. Brought tears to my eyes to see the detailed sketch in person.

St. Peter's Basilica, The Vatican. Climbed 491 steps including 320 that were in between the inner shell and outer shell of the dome. Reached the top without having a heart attack. Felt that the Aviation Gods may not be too angry with me. But just in case, when I walked around the Cupola on top, I didn't get too close to the edge.

The interior of the Basilica is a wonder of art and engineering. There were confessionals scattered throughout the church. Suggested to my wife that perhaps I should stop in. She shot back that there would not be near enough time for my long list of transgressions.

The Spanish Steps, Rome. Our small boutique hotel was near the base of the steps. On our last evening there, we walked up the hundred or so steps to take photos from a higher vantage. Just down the street was a crowd gathered in front of the Hassler Hotel so we walked down.

Barricades were set up adjacent to the lobby and across the street. TV cameras were in place as well as the paparazzi and a hundred or so fans all under the strict control of 14 or 15 hotel security guards.

As we stood there, a black Mercedes with blackened side windows pulled up to the open area and out of the lobby popped the "Top Gun" himself on his way to the wedding. It took him about 3 seconds to cross the open area, and through the crowd, I seen his toothy grin for maybe a half-second.

Tom's Mercedes sped off and another pulled up to take its place. This time Will Smith and wife popped out of the lobby. He posed for the cameras on both sides and waved to the crowd. Security was outnumbered and the crowd pushed us forward until we were at the rear bumper of his car when he finally was ready to leave. He smiled and I waved. Gosh!

Security shooed everyone back to allow a black Italian mini-van to pull up. Next out was Brooke Shields. She too posed for the cameras, looking absolutely stunning in her dark maroon evening gown. The crowd fell almost silent as they were seeing a true goddess.

Next out was Posh, the Spice Girl, looking a little frumpy by comparison. By then security was getting more frustrated and the crowd more aggressive, it was time to leave.

It is good to be home though, there is a lot to write about.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

One Buyers Experience With Eclipse

Stan-You ask about the Eclipse Owners Forum. Been there. In order to explain what I found, you’ll need some background.

I deposited on the Eclipse just prior to the July Conference Call. Immediately upon wiring the funds things started to go downhill.

The confirmation receipt I received stated, Eclipse reserves the right to revise the assigned serial number up to six months prior to the delivery of the Aircraft which revision shall not constitute a change to the Deposit Agreement. Customer will be advised, in writing, of any such change to the assigned serial number, if any." This was in direct contradiction to the Agreement that I had signed which stated, "Your serial number reflects the specific manufacturing order of your aircraft.

Meantime I had been on the owners’ site. This is what I found:
- It wasn’t super active
- Most were True Believers, especially those trying to sell early positions
- There was some concern about insurance, but very little in the way of critical thinking or tough questions. It was quite clear that the individual Depositors wished to maintain the best possible standing with the Company and didn’t want to lead any charge.

I was only on the site for a couple of days; that’s as long as it took me to demand my money back and for Eclipse to show me the door. First I brought up the issue of Eclipse’s statement that they were canceling all Serial Numbers ” Serial numbers may be changing for everyone based on refunds taking place, etc”. Early Depositors were surprised, as they’d received their framed Orders, complete with Hull Number, among great fanfare. Then I posted a link to this blog and asked if anyone knew what axe you had to grind. The silence was pretty much deafening. I felt as though I’d just kicked someone’s puppy.

Back to the Eclipse Exchange:

Micah explained by email that this was due to a change in documents and that they were no longer assigning SN’s; even if they did, that might change! I refused to accept the ad hoc change and explained that my agreement to such change would allow Eclipse to hold my Deposit, without delivery, for as long as it would like. I then posted me email on the owners’ forum. The post was promptly deleted. (If I recall correctly, ALL of my posts were). Shortly thereafter, my Login was locked and Micah responded that they’d be returning my Deposit (though it took two weeks to do so). Best Hundred and Thirty Grand I ever saved!

Below is the email that got me shown to the door:

You’re right, Micah, I am feeling misled already.

The fact that you no longer assign Serial Numbers puts your customers completely in the dark as to the number of units you have on order, gives us zero transparency as to internal “bumping” of positions, provides absolutely zero collateral to your purchasers and is a completely non-standard practice whether it be in buying a car, a boat or a plane. Additionally, in the present case, I am left little choice but to assume that Eclipse has no intention of executing the document that it required me to execute; despite the fact that you have accepted my money.

Sorry for the confusion?

I’m sorry for the confusion also. Unfortunately, it wasn’t mine yet is apparently about to cost only me. I think not.

Kindly advise as to whether we have a purchase contract or, in the negative, just how clear we are on the issue of IMMEDIATE wire return of the funds you have taken for a contract you will not execute.Yes, I’m feeling just a little misled; and my confidence in your company’s organizational and communication abilities is severely shaken. From what I can tell, your single source of revenues is from wire transfers such as mine....to find out, in retrospect that you’re not all on the same page as to the terms of receipt of that income is simply unthinkable.

Gunner

Avio Cockpit Display

Flight following provided the image. Moment arms are apparently programmed into the unit. Nice display. Thanks ff'.

CG starts at 19% and goes to 22% with fuel burn.

Empty 3,550 lbs
Fuel 1,410 lbs
Payload 915 lbs
Gross 5,875 lbs
Available 75 lbs

Pilot 180 lbs
Co-pilot 165 lbs
Pax (1) 150 lbs
Pax (2) 135 lbs
Pax (3) 195 lbs
Baggage 90 lbs

Without the moment arms, we can't really prove or disprove anything. The 3,550 lb empty weight is the latest Eclipse claim. I would bet the Avio is just set up for demos and does not represent a real airplane..

IMO, 2.5 inches of CG travel at gross is inadequate for this airplane and is a show stopper.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?

This post was revised November 14 after receipt of weight and moment arms from flightfollowing. While I am not sure of the source of these numbers, they paint a more favorable view of the CG problems for the Eclipse airplane.

With four 190 lb occupants in the front four seats and fuel to bring the A/C up to max TO weight, the airplane is outside the forward envelope. Not good, but not as bad as I thought. If the occupants average 180 lbs, then the CG is in the envelope.

Extending the sloped lines on the CG envelope shown on the type data sheet up to the 5,920 lb weight Eclipse was predicting, and the CG travel would be zero, so I suspect the FAA may have limited the gross to 5,760 lbs where there was at least 2.5 inches of travel.

Flightfollowing's information shows a 3,700 lb empty weight. This empty weight, with the TCDS max TO weight and new fuel number shows 1) a reduction of cabin payload with full fuel from 724 lbs to 576 lbs and 2) a reduction of 162 lbs of fuel.

The question remains, what did they know and when did they know they had further reductions in performance and utility?

The first of October when the airplane was certified or in June when we were told that all testing was done and that software development was the only issue holding up certification?

Eclipse should have known about this situation last June. If there was an easy fix, engineering had five months to correct the problem. Obviously, it didn't happen!


I can't help contrast the Eclipse program with the Mustang. Several months ago, Cessna transferred most of the Mustang engineers to other programs. But then, Cessna got the airplane right the first time.

Eclipse did not get the airplane right; too small of wing, insufficient fuel, insufficient thrust and a flawed basic design. Eclipse's web site show openings for numerous engineers, they still have a ways to go.

Nearly every performance target has been missed, costs are up, delivery dates are missed, aviation's self-anointed Messiah has turned into a false prophet.

This is a failed project, it just hasn't failed yet! Money, not a successful design is keeping it alive.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Watching the Eclipse - The Air Taxi Market

This the fourth in a series of topics that will be revisited now that the Eclipse is certified and deliveries are about to commence.

When the VLJ's were first conceived several years ago and 50 cent per mile operating costs were projected, the air taxi idea caught on and a handful of operators ordered hundreds of airplanes.

With costs now widely understood to be three dollars per mile, the would be taxi companies still cling to the belief they have a viable business model for the Eclipse Air Taxi. Others doubt the vision of hundreds and hundreds of Eclipse aircraft blanketing the country providing low cost transportation.

For both sides of this argument, click on the following link which was provided courtesy of Adam Webster's web site:

http://www.rsvpair.com/pages/dipiazza1

Apart from the commercial viability, another wrinkle has surfaced with the publication of the FAA Type Data Sheet. Weight and balance limitations will be a factor in flying John Q Public.

The Eclipse has an extremely narrow range for CG travel that will severely limit the utility for an air taxi operation.

Imagine Happy Jet parked at an FBO waiting for passengers, a Chevy Suburban pulls up and out steps three 220 lb guys, their briefcases and overnight bags. The flight crew will take one look and realize they are outside the forward CG limits!

Far fetched? Maybe, maybe not.

It is more far fetched to envision a Volvo pulling up with three 170 lb guys carrying a shaving kit in one hand and a clean pair of skivvies in their other hand.


Scheduling will have to ask the tough questions when booking charters: "Yes Mr. Fatcat, and how much does Mrs. Fatcat weigh?"

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Watching the Eclipse - Production

This is the third in a series of topics that will be revisited now that the Eclipse is certified and deliveries are about to commence.

At the beginning of 2006, deliveries were projected to be 100 units by the end of the year. In April the number had been reduced to 86.

On October 1, on the occasion of full certification, Andrew Broom was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal as saying the company would deliver 30-40 by year end.

At NBAA, Vern forecast that deliveries would total 525 by the end of 2007 and that a two per day production would be achieved.

Where do these people get these numbers?

a.) They are naive and don't know any better.

b.) Just enjoy saying something that sounds good and people will forget the statement anyway.

c.) Just make statements to calm apprehensions of investors, supplies and buyers...if they are picked up by the media, they must be true.

d.) All of the above.

At times the company has acknowledged this is a difficult task:

Difficult for an established company to start up a new line.

More difficult for a brand new company to start a line with a new product just out of the box.

Even more difficult for a new company with a new airplane and a very long and very wide. international supply chain.

Can it be done? Yes. Will it be done? Time will tell, but this company has a long history of promising more than it can deliver.

Plus there was a recent name change on the door of the head of manufacturing. According to the September 8 press release, Ron Holter left the company for "family reasons". While he may have left for family reasons, Holter is back at Cessna and heading up efforts in Independence, Kansas to set up the Mustang production line.

The interesting twist is that Cessna management now has pretty intimate knowledge of the inner workings and problems within Eclipse. So next time you hear Vern say certain information is proprietary for competitive reasons, it is likely Cessna already has the information.

Holter was replaced by Paul Schumacher. The press release said he came from Raytheon and was responsible for "all manufacturing and facility operations." My sources say he was a Beech VP in manufacturing, one of several, not the "Head Dog" in manufacturing.

It doesn't matter if it was an embellished resume or public relations puffery, the guy can either do the job or he can't. But starting up a production line at a new company is not the same as turning the crank on an existing line.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Watching the Eclipse - Weights

This is the second in a series of topics that will be revisited now that the Eclipse is certified and deliveries are about to commence.


The Eclipse web site is still showing the numbers released July 27th:

Max T.O. Weight 5,920 lbs
Fuel 1,686 lbs

The Type Data Sheet lists:

Max T.O. Weight 5,760 lbs
Fuel 1,524 lbs

These reductions shift the range-payload curve to the left and almost certainly reduce the published range figure to under 1,000 nm.

Until the company starts delivering airplanes, the true empty weight will remain a closely guarded secret. Somehow we will need to get Duke a leave from Bush's Bean Factory and have him infiltrate the Albuquerque airplane company. I am confident Duke could get us the actual numbers.
(editors note: Imagine the off-shore readers trying to figure out the Duke business!)

Back on subject, the range is predicated on empty weight and current numbers reflect a 3,550 lb airframe, a number I suspect is still not based on reality.

Now I will go out on some thin ice. Using the information I have available, the Type Data Sheet and a 3-view diagram from Jane's, I did some quick and dirty center of gravity calculations.

If the empty aircraft CG is at station 208, a single 170 lb pilot with minimum (300 lbs) fuel on board will push the aft CG limit.

If the same airplane is loaded with full fuel and 4 - 170 lb occupants in the four front seats, the airplane will be at gross and outside the forward limit.

The Eclipse does not have a large CG envelope. It is a short coupled airplane - the distance between the horizontal tail and wing, which ultimately limits CG travel.

The four front seats are all forward of the approved envelope. Occupants in the pilot seats weighing more than 170 lbs will really shift the CG location due to the long moment arm. Since most adults weigh more than 170 lbs, in addition to providing the hand held GPS with each delivery, Vern may also want to provide a bathroom scale with each airplane to ensure the weights and CG limits are not exceeded.

So Duke, while you are at it, get us a CG location as well.

Watching the Eclipse - Performance

This is the first in a series of topics that will be revisited now that the Eclipse is certified and deliveries are about to commence.

Actual performance for the Eclipse is not what was claimed a year ago and is misrepresented as it is being portrayed today.

For most of owner-operators, they could probably care less. They are purchasing a jet for a million dollars, give or take some change; a very good buy, in fact a steal when you consider it will cost the company probably closer to $1.5 mil to build.

Most trips will be under 500 miles. The trip to Orlando next summer will require an extra stop, so what? The kids will want to stretch their legs a bit and strut their stuff around pop's new jet!

These guys have been telling everyone for years about the jet they have on order. Every success of Vern's, was their success as well. So it flies 50 knots slower, cruises in the low 30's and the range is several hundred miles less than expected. So what?

It is still a jet and for many it will fulfill their dreams of being jet pilots. "Next year our team has games at Ole Miss and Tennessee. Our biggest customer is a fellow alumni so we can pick he and his wife up and head for the games. We're going to have some fun and the airplane will make our business travel easier as well."

More power to you future Eclipse owners, go and enjoy it!

Why then is performance important? It is a matter of credibility for the company. For instance, statements continue to the effect, "you can cruise at 41,000 ft and top speed is 370 kts." This statement does not mean cruise 370 kts at 41,000 ft.

Eclipse says you can climb to 35,000 ft in 19 minutes. At gross weight or with one pilot and minimum fuel?

Sooner of later the true numbers are going to surface. Better the company be known for producing a low performing jet than a company that tried to conceal the fact the airplane is a low performer.

If you take issue with this conclusion, just recall Vern's, Sept 28 statement before the Senate Subcommittee, "the Eclipse is more than capable of getting out of the way of faster airplanes."

Friday, October 20, 2006

FAA Type Data Sheet

The FAA has posted the Eclipse Data Sheet to their web site.

http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgMakeModel.nsf/0/ce95866aff2a54bd8625720c006525f5/$FILE/A00002AC.pdf

This TDS was issued out of the Fort Worth Aircraft Certification Office and therefore differs slightly from what comes out of the Wichita office which handles Cessna and Beech certification. One difference was the inclusion of the following Note 9. I would like to ask for comments on whether this statement gives Eclipse more control over individuals flying the 500 than what Cessna has over pilots flying the CJ3?

Note 9. All pilots operating the Eclipse Aviation EA-500 must be trained and qualified in accordance with the FAA Accepted/Approved Eclipse Aviation training program or other FAA Approved training program.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Eclipse Training

On September 28, 2006, Vern Raburn appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation. The full transcript of his message is online:

http://commerce.senate.gov/public/_files/RaburnTestimony_SenateAviationSubcommittee_9_28_060.pdf#search=%22eclipse%20aviation%22

His statements detail a very thorough training program for his Eclipse buyers.

What I don't understand is how the company can exert so much control over a purchaser. A buyer who wants to duck all the screening measures Vern described, can send a qualified professional pilot in to pass the tests, take delivery of the airplane, then fly home and operate as the owner pleases.

And assuming Eclipse can exert almost absolute control over the initial buyer, does this long arm of control extend to the resale market?

The hearing was not about training but rather the potential impact of a swarm of low performance VLJ's on the Nation's air traffic control system. In front of the Committee he claimed most flights would take place between 20,000 and 30,000 ft. Further he stated, "the Eclipse is more than capable of getting out of the way of faster airplanes."

One would think that an important event like Vern appearing before a Senate Subcommittee would be reported on the Eclipse web site. Now it seems they are only reporting upside stories and this may become a downside issue.
Potentially, minimum speeds and minimum rates of climb could be imposed in the upper airspace which could adversely affect Eclipse flight operations..

Vern did testify that owners who failed his screening tests would have their purchase agreements terminated and their deposits returned. Elsewhere, we have heard that even with future performance shortfalls the buyers are locked in their contracts and obligated to take delivery of the airplane or forfeit their deposit.

Now if I am a buyer and want to cancel my position, all I have to do is show up for training, flunk the tests and walk away with my deposit refunded. "Don't throw me into the briar patch Brer Bear!"


Now for your believe it or not moment and those die hard Eclipse followers who want to track every twist and turn of the program, check out this report from a Russian news organization:

http://www.mosnews.com/news/2005/06/14/eclipserussia.shtml

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Trip Report - Quest Aircraft

For new visitors to this blog, please read the comments that typically follow each post. We are fortunate to have some very knowledgeable and thoughtful individuals sharing their views. Often, there is more meaningful content in the comments than in the original post. Check them out.

My wife and I flew United to Spokane and rented a car for the two hour drive to Sandpoint, Idaho. Our timing was fortuitous, the Aspen trees were at their peak. In full sun, the gold-orange colors were so brilliant, one almost needed sunglasses to look at them. We bought a bag of freshly picked apples from the back of a pickup truck, sure didn't taste like the ones they sell at Krogers.

What does all this have to do with Eclipse?

Quest Aircraft (www.questaircraft.com) is a start-up company. They are developing the Kodiak, a turboprop bush plane, a bit smaller than the Cessna Caravan. The Caravan grosses 8,000 lbs, the Kodiak, 6,750 lbs. The Caravan has a 675 hp engine, the Kodiak 750 hp for takeoff. Quest is looking for takeoff performance, specifically takeoff performance on floats. - Performance always sells! -

We were in Sandpoint September 29th, the day Quest received their TIA. They expect full certification by the end of the year. The company has slightly over 100 employees, only about a dozen engineers. They have a new building, new NC mills, Unigraphics CAD/CAM system, Faro laser tracker, all state-of-the -art equipment that Eclipse and the rest of the industry (including myself) is using.

When the Eclipse program started, Vern liked to boast he was the first to apply this high end equipment in a small company environment. He was wrong of course, but what he really does not understand is how this equipment increases the productivity and allows a small group of people to do a really big job. Quest's dozen engineers proves the point. I don't know how many engineers Eclipse has on staff, but their help wanted section on the web has often listed 20-30 engineering positions open at any one time.

Quest has kept the airplane simple and light without losing sight of their most important goal, keep the airplane field reparable. With the exception of the usual purchased items, the company intends to manufacture everything it can in-house.

Quest could have had their wings built in Japan or the nose section built in Chile. These suppliers will burden each sub-assembly with a 30% profit margin. This burdened cost, plus packaging, plus shipping will be carried forward to the Eclipse bill-of-material and get marked up another 30%. Costs for coordination, purchasing, receiving inspection and travel within the supply chain, all adds to a company's overhead. - A lot of blue sky for the buyer or red ink for the company. -

But you say, Eclipse is just following the Boeing model for outsourcing. Boeing has very good reasons for outsourcing not shared by Eclipse. Union work rules (here in Wichita, get a job at Boeing and you are going to work at the Lazy-B Ranch) and union driven wage rates make outsourcing a pretty easy decision for Boeing. Then there is the matter of offset trade agreements. Boeing's 787 wing will be built in Japan, not coincidentally, All Nippon Airways 50 airplane order with an option for 50 more, launched the Dreamliner.

When Quest production has a problem with a design issue, they can drag an engineer down to the shop floor and get a quick fix. It is not that easy when production and engineering is a few hundred or few thousand miles apart.

Quest engineers designed their own spring gear and will build it in house. While the design may be borrowed from some other airplane, I have never seen anything similar and it is quite clever. They built their own drop test rig for the gear, did all their airframe static testing, machined all their own tooling to form the sheet metal parts and even built their own hydropress to squeeze their parts, which is why I was there.

We had quoted a new $200,000 hydropress to Quest, so my wife and I traveled to Idaho to finalize the details. I took one look at their press and asked, why do you want a new one, yours is perfectly suited for your needs? As it turned out, they need some new cylinders but not a new press.

Overall, it was heart warming. Quest is staffed by straight shooting airplane people who have clearly defined objectives and are quietly achieving realistic goals, one at a time.

With the first design out of the box, they have mastered the art of building a light and strong sheet metal structure. The Kodiak's empty weight fraction is coming in at 51% vs Caravan's 50% and Cessna has perfected the art of building light weight sheet metal airplanes. Quest's production is sold out for the next three years; they are concentrating their resources on internal efforts and minimizing outside activities.

Even with their new building and new manufacturing equipment on the shop floor, I would guess that the Quest investment to be well under $50 million by the time they receive certification...about one-tenth of what Eclipse spent.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

We Did It!!!

Well, that's what I was expecting. Instead, the Eclipse press release was uncharacteristically humble.

“In spite of the hurdles we’ve encountered and those that still lie ahead, this is a day to reflect on what has been accomplished,” said Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation. “We successfully launched a new aviation company, developed and certified a truly revolutionary aircraft and created a whole new market segment that helped return relevancy and growth to general aviation.”

No claim as to how they would ramp production up to 1,000 units per year.

No claim as to building an airplane whose operating costs would compete with airline fares.

No claim for meeting or exceeding the original design goals.


Next event - The National Business Aircraft Association convention starting October 17th. All the aviation press will be there...I hope they ask some tough questions.






Eclipse Lawsuit - Guest Reporter


AJ said...

This article was on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal today.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Firm Sues Eclipse Over Price By Andrew Webb
Copyright © 2006 Albuquerque Journal;
Journal Staff Writer

A European company that announced plans four years ago to buy 112 Eclipse business jets claims in a lawsuit that Eclipse delayed, then canceled delivery of the planes so it could sell them for more money.

Aviace Ltd., a Swiss startup that aims to launch a jet service and charter club, was one of Eclipse's first big customers.

After Aviace announced plans to buy 112 planes over several years, the agreed-upon price per plane ultimately was set at $1.045 million— nearly half a million less than today's price of $1.5 million.

The first deliveries to Aviace were to have begun with the 31st Eclipse 500 off the production line, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

Aviace claims Eclipse breached the agreement by bumping its first delivery to No. 47, then canceling the order for failure to pay a production deposit of $634,305.

"Eclipse desires to terminate the purchase agreement so as to retain the aircraft under contract for sale to Aviace for Eclipse to resell for a profit greater than that to be obtained under the purchase agreement," Aviace claims.

Aviace contends production deposits were not required for the first few deliveries.

The lawsuit asks for Eclipse to either reinstate Aviace's delivery schedule, or pay unspecified compensatory and punitive damages to the Swiss firm. Eclipse, which received its long-awaited Federal Aviation Administration type certification Saturday, has built a handful of customer planes. But the company does not yet have production certification from the FAA and each aircraft must be inspected before delivery.

Eclipse spokesman Andrew Broom declined comment. The Albuquerque attorney representing Aviace did not return a call.

Eclipse, which is building the six-seat jets in Albuquerque, has been closely watched by the aviation industry. With a price and operating cost considerably lower than for existing business jets, many believe the Eclipse 500 and a handful of other "very light jets" will make jet travel affordable to a new class of pilots and owners.

Aviace is one of several companies that has placed large orders. Several aim to build "air taxi" services, but others, including Aviace, have explored alternatives. Aviace has said it planned to start fractional jet ownership— multiple owners sharing one plane— and charter services throughout Europe.

Originally, Eclipse was to have delivered the four aircraft to Aviace in 2004, eight in 2005, and 100 in 2006. Those dates, and those for all other Eclipse customers, were pushed back by nearly two years by a complicated engine swap in 2002.

Aviace says in the suit its "Most Favored Customer" status guaranteed its prices would not exceed the price granted to any other customer ordering equal or smaller quantities.

Aviace says it was required to pay only a $2.010 million deposit, equal to 20 percent of the cumulative list price, for the first 12 aircraft, with the balance to be paid on delivery. That payment was made in January 2005, the company said in the suit. Furthermore, Aviace says that contrary to the purchase agreement, it was asked to pay a 50 percent production deposit of $634,305 six months before delivery.

Eclipse informed Aviace last month that it was canceling the order due to nonpayment of the $634,305 invoice, according to the suit. The notice said that Eclipse reserved the right to reassign aircraft No. 47 to another customer and that Eclipse would keep $167,500 of Aviace's original deposit as damages.

Meanwhile Eclipse said Tuesday that the FAA has certified its repair and maintenance service center. The certification, approved Monday, came just two days after the FAA fully certified Eclipse's E500 "very light jet," clearing it for delivery to customers.The latest certification means the company can lead the repair and maintenance of any Eclipse 500 aircraft, the company said in a news release. The FAA also approved the company's station training manual.

Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.

http://www.abqjournal.com/

Monday, September 25, 2006

TC Update - Guest Reporter

Eclipse Insider said...

Eclipse is finishing F&R as we speak. In fact, they just had an all hands celebration at the ABQ Convention Center this past Saturday for the TC.


It was kind of amusing to see all the “we did it” and “FAA Certified” posters plastered around the room considering they’re not done yet. However, according to Vern, they have ~40 flight hours remaining before they can officially pop the cork.

They are also planning the same celebration this Saturday for all their customers and major investors. I think that group would be a little less forgiving if they don’t get it done and still have a party.

9:11 AM, September 25, 2006


Sunday, September 24, 2006

F & R ?

www.flightaware.com is showing 20 flights on N505EA since September 15. Four sorties on the 15th, five on the 16th and the fourth flight of today is en route to Lubbock as of "post time."

As written previously, Functional and Reliability testing is usually the last major task prior to final certification.

According to FAR 21.35 Paragraph(f)(1) & (2), applicants using an engine not previously used in a certified airplane must log 300 hours. If the engine has been used in a previously certified airplane the requirement is halved to 150 hours.

Unless Vern could somehow convince the FAA the Pratt 610F is the same as a 615F, they would need 300 hours of flight testing.

Flights to date are to airports in California, Texas, Colorado and Arizona...around two hours in duration. Cruise speeds are quite slow since they are trying to log time, not miles.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Eclipse vs. Fox Jet - Guest Editorial

Kaptain Kool-Aid said...

I am sure Vern will be preaching to the faithful at NBAA, but as we read in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “…there is nothing new under the sun.”

Mr. Raburn was not first person to conceive of what has been termed the “very light jet.” Several designs have been proposed over the years including the mildly successful Moraine-Saulnier MS760 Paris Jet and the never-produced, T-37 derived, Cessna 407 just to name a couple. But, take a trip with me back in history to the late 1970s to a time when bell-bottoms and feathered hairstyles were en vogue. To the days when the Bee Gees ruled the airwaves and Farrah Fawcett graced the wall of every teenage boy’s bedroom. The ‘70s are also remembered for oil shortages and high fuel prices. What the world really needed was a revolutionary new business jet that used only one-fifth the fuel and cost about half that of its closest competitor. Of course, this new plane would be stylish inside and out including requisite disco-era crushed velour on patented “zip rail” seats. The name of this ubermachine?

Fox Jet.

Its promoter and namesake is a successful inventor/businessman named Tony Fox who, as it turned out, was about three decades ahead of his time.

Interestingly, the Fox Jet and the original Eclipse 500 design share some very similar performance stats. Below is a comparison of a few key features:

Fox Jet/Eclipse 500

Max Cruise Speed (kts): 356/355
Service Ceiling: FL410/FL410
MTOW (lbs): 4450/4700

Both aircraft were to be powered by engines from Williams International (formerly Williams Research), made primarily of aluminum, carry six seats and be single-pilot certified.

So, you’re probably wondering why this modern marvel didn’t make it to market. The short answer is that Williams Research won a military contract (Air Launched Cruise Missiles) and the government put the kibosh on any non-military use of the engines effectively killing the program. The aircraft never got past the design stage, but a few full-scale mockups were built. As an interesting side note, earlier this year, the rights to the Fox Jet were sold to Millennium Aerospace Corporation. Tony Fox, now 84, said he would like to see the Fox Jet fly in his lifetime. Time will tell…

By the way, DayJet is not a new idea either. The Fox Jet was to be heavily utilized in the DIALJET program as illustrated in the following excerpt from a Fox Jet press release:

MARKETING ADVANTAGE:

Complementing the Regional Service Center concept will be the DIALJET system. When fully operational, this can become the largest, fastest and most convenient non-scheduled jet service in the world, simply by utilizing the combined flying strength of hundreds of Foxjets owned individually or corporately and made available for charter through a lease-back arrangement with DIALJET. The DIALJET customer can have a Foxjet for almost immediate charter anywhere, anytime, by calling the toll-free number 1-800-DIALJET. Costs to the customer can be reduced by share-flight scheduling with other customers through DIALJET's world-wide computer network. The speed, efficiency, and comfort of travel by private Foxjet will be extended to many thousands of customers at a fraction of the cost of chartering other jet aircraft. Such an extensive, viable lease-back arrangement will make Foxjet ownership all the more cost-effective and attractive, thus greatly boosting the sales of new Foxjets.

DayJet… DIALJET… you can’t make this stuff up!

NOTE: Most of the above information came from a truly unique and entertaining website:


http://www.machdiamonds.com/history.html

For some real fun, I suggest you spend a few minutes watching the promotional films produced by Eclip… uh, I mean Fox Jet. The first has some delightfully cheesy special effects and the other features a great conversation between Tony Fox and Bill Lear. Both films contain several gems that I’m sure you will enjoy. They can be found here:

http://www.machdiamonds.com/foxjet.html




Friday, September 15, 2006

NBAA

The world's most important annual business jet convention is scheduled for October 17-19 in Orlando. The press and participants at the National Business Aircraft Association gathering will be more knowledgeable and professional than the Oshkosh crowd.

For credibility of the Eclipse program, Vern Raburn really needs full type certification and needs to get the performance issues sorted out before making the trip to Florida.

Cruise at 330 knots at 35,000 ft and talk of deliveries with tip tanks to be later replaced with larger ones will not impress the NBAA attendees.

In previous years, Vern got the NBAA's attention with his claim of a million dollar price tag and 1,000 unit per year production rates. He probably won't be making those claims this year.

And if we see him running down the aisles waving his Type Certificate, it will be a real laugh. Welcome to the club, every airplane at NBAA has a TC.

Otherwise, in terms of pecking order, the Eclipse sucks the proverbial hind tit. Boeing Business Jets and G-V's, whose interiors cost more than a new Eclipse, sets the standards here.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Eclipse Answers - Guest Editorial

niner zulu has contributed his e-mail exchange with Eclipse.

Following is the text from an email Eclipse sent to me on August 10, 2006 in reply to my email to them (the names have been xxxx'd out, and unfortunately the chart would not paste into the Comment box for the blog so it may be a little hard to interpret...)

Dear Mr. XXX,

I am sorry to hear of your concerns. However I believe you have been misinformed with several points and I hope the below answers will provide greater insight. I will encourage you to ask for a Sales Representative or Sales Manager at these shows. Many times we employ product specialists who assist us in logistics and staffing, however they are not specifically employed with Eclipse in the Sales Department.

1) is it true that some person or company has purchased (approximately) 100 positions on the Eclipse, and is feeding them out to the market 1-2 positions at a time for a profit. Also, is it true that there may be hundreds of more spec positions waiting to be dumped on the market? If so, this would kill the market for resales.

To the best of my knowledge, this specific company I believe you are referring to no longer holds the right to that number of aircraft. There is less than 3% speculator purchases based on today’s data, and we have over 2,500 aircraft sold.

2) is it true that the climb rate of the Eclipse is currently only around 400' per minute at altitudes somewhere between FL350 and FL410.

The climb rate in that altitude range is comparable to other light jets that have ceilings of FL410. You can expect anywhere from 250fpm to 600fpm depending on a number of factors. This is not uncommon for jets of this size to have reduced climb rates above FL350 because of the density of the air. Even the Bombardier Challenger 604 aircraft has less than 500fpm climb rate in the upper 30’s, lower 40’s.

3) I heard that the cruise speed at FL410 is only about 305 kts, and this is with a nose-up attitude. Is this true? If not, what is the nose-up attitude in cruise at FL410 (I have heard it is as high as 7 degrees nose-up) and what would the TAS be?

Level flight at FL410, at Max Continuous Thrust (MCT) will yield 360kts. The “sweet spot” for the Eclipse 500 is at FL350 based on max continuous thrust to achieve the maximum cruise speed of 370kts.

4) is it true that there are problems with the tip tank design with regard to lighting protection? If so, has the problem been resolved and what is the solution?

Yes, we had a minor issues with the lightning tests conducted with the tip tanks, specifically the composite was presenting some issues. We have corrected this by eliminating the composite and replacing the structure with all aluminum. Keep in mind, the only composite component of the tip tank is the forward leading and trailing edge. The actual fuel tank portion is aluminum. This change validates the use of aluminum and that an all aluminum aircraft like the Eclipse 500 will prove to be one of the strongest and safest aircraft in history. Installation of the aluminum tip tanks is imminent.

5) what is the flight configuration i.e. altitude, power setting, and true airspeed for maximum range and what is the range. Is there a performance chart available that shows power settings, fuel burn and range at various altitudes?

Attached below:
Max Continous Thrust
Distance Block Time Flight Time Block Fuel Flight Fuel Max Speed During Trip Cruise Altitude
200nm 0:51 0:40 435 lb 384 lb 362 kt 25,000 ft
200nm 0:53 0:42 385 lb 344 lb 366 kt 35,000 ft
600nm 1:57 1:46 1,123 lb 1,072 lb365 kt 25,000 ft
600nm 1:59 1:48 885 lb 834 lb 369 kt 35,000 ft
1,000nm 3:10 2:59 1,224 lb 1,173 lb360 kt 39,000 ft

Long Range Cruise
Distance Block Time Flight Time Block Fuel Flight FuelMax Speed During Trip Cruise Altitude
200nm 0:58 0:47 398 lb 347 lb 273 kt 25,000 ft
200nm 0:56 0:45 375 lb 324 lb 302 kt 35,000 ft
600nm 2:27 2:16 954 lb 903 lb 273 kt 25,000 ft
600nm 2:17 2:06 814 lb 763 lb 302 kt 35,000 ft
1,000nm 3:26 3:15 1,140 lb1,089 lb 331 kt 41,000 ft

6) at what altitude does the Eclipse cruise at it's advertised speed of 370 knots, and what is the fuel burn at this power setting

See above chart.

7) is it true that there are some problem certifiying the AVIO system for IFR flight?

The AVIO system has been the area for many of our minor delays, specifically a few key suppliers that have not followed through to their schedule. However, we currently have a timeline in place to work with these suppliers to ensure IFR capability by the end of August, at which time we expect to receive the full Type Certification from the FAA. Most functionality will be complete by Q4 of this year, however the auto-throttle and some operational options will not be available until March 2007. Please keep in mind these future changes will simply be a software update, since most hardware is currently installed and waiting on integration. The AVIO – Total Aircraft Integration is going to be one dynamic and phenomenal suite to make flying safer and easier for the single pilot – there is not a comparable system out there that is available on any aircraft below $20 million.

8) when do you expect the first Eclipse deliveries will occur.

First deliveries will occur by the end of August.

9) is the buyer for the first Eclipse delivery really not going to take delivery (or, if he does, then sell it?). What made him change his mind?

Mr. XXXX is still taking delivery in conjunction with a fractional company, and they will both be utilizing the aircraft. Many customers choose to partner with a fractional or charter company in order to help justify ownership and offset the cost.

10) I was told that the letter that gave Eclipse position holders was carefully worded so that, if they did not cancel their positions by a certain date because the Eclipse wasn't going to meet the range promised, that the end result would be that they lose their right to cancel get their deposit back if any of the other performance specs aren't met as well. Is this true?

We guarantee the performance for your aircraft. If a certain performance guarantee is not met, we will inform all customers of the refund event and allow 30 days to request a refund so we can manage the refunds. This occurred when we updated the range on the aircraft, however we only lost about 8 customers out of 2,500 aircraft on order, continuing to validate the Eclipse 500 as a phenomenal value and performer.

11) Why does Eclipse continue to advertise the price as $1.3 million? I can't buy one for that, at least not from Eclipse.

The list price has been adjusted to reflect today’s dollars adjusted for CPI-W from June 2000. In June 2006 dollars, the list price is $1,520,000 as stated in the Eclipse 500 Deposit Agreement. You will find the baseline for our pricing has been set in June 2000 up until the recent Oshkosh airshow, rather than confuse folks by updating by CPI-W on an annual basis. Most aircraft manufacturers conduct pricing this way for new aircraft to hit the market.

I hope the above information will help to mitigate your concerns.

Please find attached the latest product specifications for the Eclipse 500.

Best regards,
Joe XXXX
Aircraft Sales
Eclipse Aviation Corporation
Ph: 505.724.1682
Fx: 505.241.8717
Web: www.eclipseaviation.com
11:56 AM, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Promises, Promises

For six years, Eclipse has promised more than they have delivered. Costs have been underestimated...performance overstated...milestones missed, reestablished, missed again, reestablished...market potential inflated...unreal production numbers...technical objectives oversimplified. The list goes on and it is a very long list. Nearly every marker has been missed.

Through it all amazing enough, Vern Raburn's credibility remains intact even as, one after another, he failed to achieve his stated goals. Thanks to the illusion he has created, the press and public has overlooked the shortfalls. Everybody would like jet air taxi service for the average air traveler. No more dehumanizing TSA hassles, no more long waits at hubs for connecting service. And for the pilots among us, maybe, just maybe, we can one day fly a jet ourselves. Powerful dreams that obscure reality.


There are comments posted to this blog relating to Vern's motive for developing the airplane, even empathy for his current difficulties.

I don't question the guy's love of aviation or love of flying. However, I believe the underlying motive for the program was to use the airplane as an opportunity vehicle to launch a large IPO so that he and the investors could cash in big, just as so many of his fellow pioneering computer and dot.com associates did in the 1990's... companies that promised the moon and never made a penny.

Had Eclipse met their original goals, a successful IPO may have been possible. Now with each set-back, the possibility becomes more remote. And if the airplane performance is no better than the sluggish numbers detailed in the August 31 post, the shortfalls may overshadow everything else. Sooner or later, the airplane will certify, the airplane will get in the field and there will be no more obscuring the true operational numbers.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

CDWC - Bumper Sticker

Proposed for Vern's car - Cessna Did, We can't!

On Cessna's 09-08-06 announcement of certification for the Mustang.