Friday, August 25, 2006
The Donkey Cart
Vern has dangled one carrot after another in front of the press and public for the past six years. His latest carrot was revealed in a recent interview with Flight International:
"Additional "avionics functionality" that Eclipse views as its "market differentiator" will not be available for another six to 12 months, says Raburn, adding: "We will certificate with what most aircraft have, but we will not have many of things needed to realize the potential of this aircraft." As the hardware is already installed and approved, he says, Eclipse will add the functionality as software upgrades."
Vern, people do not buy airplanes because of their "avionics functionality" or other whistles and bells installed in the instrument panel.
Your carrot, and the only positive Eclipse "market differentiator" is low cost and a level of performance that approaches what would be expected from a jet. Of course today, your carrot isn't looking so good. Performance is less than promised and costs are escalating.
Then there is the issue of the wheels on your cart, they are looking a little wobbly. The only thing keeping the wheels on the axles is money. Starting an aircraft assembly line from scratch takes a lot of money and Eclipse will be financially upside-down for perhaps hundreds of the initial deliveries. Plus now you are having to me$$ around with two more design iterations. First converting from plastic tip tanks to metal ones, then to even larger metal tanks.
In an August interview with CNBC European Business, you claim you can build a complete unit in 4.5 days thanks to the capabilities of friction stir welding.
The operating word is "can." You have not yet accomplished the feat and 90% of the airplane is conventionally riveted.
The main advantage of FSW is for "show and tell." You can march prospects, the press and potential investors over to the FSW facility and dazzle them with technology they probably never have seen before. You can rightfully claim that no other general aviation manufacturer is using the process (because there is still the long term corrosion issue associated with the process), and Eclipse is leading the way through technology.
This is nothing more than a high tech "con."
When the wheels come off the cart, they come off abruptly like they have for Sino-Swearingen. The money runs out, the investor(s) grow weary of unachieved goals and broken commitments. S-S had to lay off 100 in San Antonio this month when the investor said enough was enough.
The Swearingen aircraft was certified in October 2005 and they have yet to deliver a single airplane to a customer. One could see trouble on the horizon six months ago when the game of musical chairs began. The head of marketing left the company, the chief test pilot takes his job, the head of the company leaves and they bring in Max Bleck to provide some direction. Bleck is a well traveled aviation professional with top management positions at Cessna, Beech and Piper. His strength is in engineering.
Thanks to flightguy for details from the Flight International interview. More of what flightguy wrote is in the comment section of my August 4 post on Cinderella's Slipper:
The CNBC interview is posted on the Eclipse site. The title of the interview is "Mr. Blue Sky." CNBC had that nailed!