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.

6 comments:

Niner Zulu said...

Stan,

Good info! One wonders why no one at Eclipse has stepped forward to comment on any of your articles.

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

Trip 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 lb
365 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 lb
360 kt 39,000 ft

Long Range Cruise

Trip Distance Block Time Flight Time Block Fuel Flight Fuel
Max 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 lb
1,089 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

Observer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Observer said...

Stan,

srmach5 mentioned something in his Sept 6 post, point #1.

srmach5 said:

1)..... "Also, has anyone else heard that United is no longer allowed to do third-party training? If this is true, how will this effect the Eclipse training program?"

I wanted to add something here. Yes, I have heard this mentioned. A couple of weeks ago I heard that United was not going to provide the training. I heard United was breaking the agreement for cause. I don't think we'll see this advertised by either Eclipse or United. I thought the Eclipse insurance vendors (AIG) had based their ability to offer insurance for Eclipse on the United program. Maybe Eclipse can convince insurers to stay on board even if United doesn't provide the training program.

I'm not sure if United's break with Eclipse will materialize. They may patch up the differences with Eclipse....who knows!

Stan Blankenship said...

observer,

Thanks for the United comment, both you and srmach5 may be hearing the same rumor. Perhaps niner zulu could contact his friend Joe XXXX at Eclipse and get a reading.

You post was duplicated so I deleted the first one.

SRMach5 said...

Stan:

Now that the Mustang has been certified and based on your experience perhaps a good topic to expound upon would be the differences amongst the variety of certificates. I truly believe if the general public understood how the Eclipse was certified, Vern and his marketeers would think twice about their current advertising efforts related to the champagne cork with the tag 'remove at certification'.

Stan, or anyone else for that matter, could you please speak to what it takes to receive a full 'production type certificate'? Simply put, folks...getting a provisional type certificate compared to achieving a production type certificate is damn near a day and night difference.

Observer...I too heard the same thing, however; it was from an industry contact, not a news clip. I googled the heck out of the Eclipse / United training issue related to third party training and came up with nothing. If anyone has some factual data on the apparent diterioration of this relationship, I would love to read about it.

As a point of factual clarification, my understanding of the third party training issue at United pertaining to Eclipse training was a TSA driven initiative to keep the airlines out of third party training for obvious reasons. Again...any other data pertaining to this would be great.

Stan Blankenship said...

srmach5,

Type certification is an engineering issue. The task for the Eclipse engineers was to design an airplane that met the criteria and then prove that all requirements were satisfied.

A Production Certificate is a totally different kettle of fish. The basis for a PC is the Quality Control Manual. It becomes the operational bible for the company. FAR Part 21 provides the guidelines, not many pages...not many words. But the breadth in scope and depth in detail the regulations govern is immense, far more than can be covered here.

The objective of the PC is to provide:

- 100% traceability for all parts
- 100% accountability, who did the work, who did the inspections
- 100% documentation
- 100% repeatability

The rules apply to Eclipse and all suppliers.

The FAA will give Eclipse six months to earn the PC. In the meantime, the FAA will come in and fully inspect each completed production airplane to ensure that each was built to the engineering, and all documentation as mentioned above is in place. On completion, the FAA will issue a Certificate of Airworthiness for that airplane and it can be sold to a customer.

These FAA inspections will be time consuming and tedious. FAA manpower resources are limited. An Adam Aircraft sales rep told me at Oshkosh, their delivery rate will pick up once they get their PC.

After Eclipse earns a PC, the inspection department working within the framework of the QC Manual, will be authorized to issue C of A's for production aircraft.


How long will it take Eclipse to earn a PC?

If they have done their homework during the past six years, have a complete QC Manual, can demonstrate to the FAA that all policies and procedures function properly, and they have a qualified and trained staff to implement the plan, the PC should come before the first dozen are delivered.

Ideally, Eclipse would have a retired FAA inspector or a grizzled old cantankerous inspector from the industry on board to help establish the ground rules. Either would understand the requirements and not bow to management pressures to bend the rules.

One of the intangible aspects the FAA will want to see before issuing the PC is some measure of independence on the part of the inspection department, as in, don't have inspection reporting to the head of manufacturing.

On August 14, 2006, Eclipse announced the hiring of Saul Pacheco as VP of Quality Control. He comes from the medical technology field and Motorola. He has no reported aviation experience nor experience working with the FAA. But I bet he can do a good power point presentation.