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!


Observer said...

Stan-thank you. Finally some objective commentary. You are correct, there are many out there who are hesitant to comment due to their affiliations.

Rumor has it that Eclipse outgrew the P&W 610. A few months ago 615's were delivered. They have re-labeled the engines. I think they may be calling them 610E (or something like that), so as not to spook the public with a second engine change. Anyway Pratt is probably looking around for a 610 customer.

In some of the PR you find mention that Eclipse has upgraded the engines (to be more powerful) at no additional cost to the customer. I believe the article that mentions upgraded engines was put out within the last two months.

flight guy said...

That makes sense. Interesting insider comment. I noticed that the Transport Canada Type Cert for the PW615 has it at 950 LBS of thrust for takeoff verses the advertised 900 lbs of thrust. This fact would explain the new tip tanks with larger volume. Great scoop if true. Can this be substantiated?

flight guy said...

Typo on my part. The previous comment by me should have mentioned the PW610 type cert instead of the PW615.

Stan Blankenship said...


If any of this is true, it is not good news for Eclipse.

It steepens the dreadful upward weight spiral they are in, more thrust, more fuel, more weight, more cost, fewer sales, higher production costs, more red ink.

It might be good news though for Pratt. They would only need one production line for the 615 and if Eclipse stumbles, sell the engines to Cessna.

Vern has another $225 million to spend so he could absorb the cancellation costs.

If either of you get to Las Vegas, here is a racing tip you can bet on: the Mustang will deliver to a customer before Eclipse gets the provisional removed from their TC.

Griper said...

I hadnt heard anything through the grapevine about another engine change at Eclipse. Even if they are switching over to the same engine Cessna uses on the Mustang it can't be good news for Pratt&Whitney. Their supply stream for the 615 can't be provisioned to supply both Cessna and Eclipse which means big produciton problems. But their supply stream for the 610 is established and shutting that off or choking it down will be hugely expensive. Also, they face the same kind of investment costs as Eclipse does. Which means they weren't going to start making a profit on their enginge until they deliver a hundred or so. P&W has to be sucking wind right now hoping one of these airplanes certifies soon.

Eclipse has been oddly quiet lately haven't they. I was expecting to hear more blowing and going as we approached their deadline for TC. Wonder what that means?

Stan Blankenship said...


In either case, Pratt has a lot of financial exposure. Their ability to produce engines will far outstrip Eclipse's need.

Vern got quiet before Oshkosh and the Provisional TC. Maybe they are busy planing an even bigger ceremony in Albuquerque. Award of the TC by a major government official (maybe Bush himself or at least the head of Transportation) then delivery of the first production unit.

Jet_fumes said...

Stan, thanks so much for speaking out on behalf of all of those who are not allowed to.

As an insider I can tell you that you are hitting the nail on the head! (most of the time anyway)

The Collier Trophy award was such a disgrace, I feel so ashamed for all the past recipients.

Don't spend too much time quoting Richard Aboulaffia, he doesn't have a clue.

Stan Blankenship said...


Thanks for reading, you can post your comments here any time.

When you say you are an "insider", we would all like to know if you are "inside" enough to tell us if an engine change is in work at Eclipse?

As for Aboulafia, he is the only other individual who will publicly question the Eclipse PR machine. Plus, he is the "go-to" guy for the media regarding aviation issues.

Observer said...

Flight Guy wondered if the engine upgrade to a 615 could be substantiated. Both Eclipse and Pratt have a vested interest in keeping this quiet...thus a re-labeled engine. Therefore, it is difficult to substantiate through external (public) sources. I believe the information came from a credible source. Rumor has it this occurred 3-6 months ago. Time will tell!

Rumors from other sources indicate Eclipse is still trying to reduce weight by a few hundred pounds. This is interesting since Eclipse has announced they are adding larger tip tanks. Definitely a catch-22.

As Stan mentioned the "dreadful upward weight spiral" may be continuing. [see Stan's comment: 4:36 PM, August 28, 2006 ]

Stan Blankenship said...


The picture you paint is almost bizarre.

However, I did find more evidence on the web tonight that points to a serious thrust problem which may force them to do something as incredible as what you are hearing.

Will put up a couple of more posts in the next few days.

ps. Just a reminder. Tomorrow is the last day of the month. Vern promised us removal of the Provisional status by the end of August.

flight guy said...

Exerpts from AVWEB'S report on Eclipse from yesterday.

Back in July, Eclipse CEO and President Vern Raburn told the throngs his company expected to receive full certification -- except for known icing and some of the avionics' software -- by the end of August. But well-placed sources tell AVweb that it's likely Eclipse will miss that self-imposed deadline. Instead of coming in under that wire in the next 24 or so hours, Eclipse now believes full FAA certification -- again with the above-mentioned caveats -- will be achieved sometime in September.

Stan Blankenship said...

flight guy,

That elusive carrot remains just out of reach and the donkey just keeps hoping.

Title of the next post is, "Tale of Two Airplanes." It won't go up until Friday night and business has shut down.

Also perhaps Sunday, "Visions of Sugar Plums Dance in Their Heads."

unsafe@anyspeed said...

It is hard to imagine that Eclipse is considering changing the engine at this point. The thrust to weight is a little low at .30 if you use 900 lb thrust or .31 if you use 950 lb Flight Guy says they are getting. The Light Jets (CJ's, Lears, etc) come in somewhere around .34 to .42, but they are faster. Plus the added cg problems from sticking a heavier engine on, and they would have to re-fly all the stalls, etc. Good luck if they are doing it.

Lots of people are reading this blog, it is sort of an outlet for some of us who have had to watch and shake our heads at some of Vern's antics. At some point you almost expect him to claim he is the second coming of the Wright Brothers.
Many others have come and gone after they run out of money and resources. What Vern seems to be best at is raising capitol and putting together a team, so you have to give him some credit there. No one thought he would have made it this far, but it doesn't hurt to have the richest man in the world as a friend. (When Warren Buffet asked Bill Gates what his top ten charities were he had Eclipse as #7)
For some other less than positive views read some of these:

I call this the Nimbus affair

Something from Flying Magazine

And the funniest one of all from Richard Aboulafia

If you had one more post from the bug in Vern's office you could take over the top spot from Richard. Thanks Stan

Stan Blankenship said...


Thanks for the info and your kind words. It makes the effort all worthwhile and also provides some comfort to my wife who thought I might be in some kind of a mid-life crisis.

Tune in tomorrow night at 7:30 cst, there will be some real red-meat to chew on.