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.

28 comments:

twinpilot said...

Hello Stan,welcome back.
I am not favorably impressed with the single spar and single spar wing attachment of the Eclipse wing. A two spar wing with two spar attach points would make me a lot more comfortable. As you know, any load applied to a structure with any flexibility ( and all structures have flexibility) will cause the load to redistribute to other areas. The drag load in flight or on landing would be easily absorbed by the second spar attachment in a conventional design. It looks to me like the aft attach point is far to small to cope with the load and that is the reason it is elongating. If it cracks and separates, you could easily have some flutter issues.
This looks like a "throw away airplane" because of the poor design. Use it for a while then throw it away and get a new one. It is unfortunate because of the millions spent on the tooling. The tooling really looks fantastic (and expensive) built for high volume.

flightfollowing said...

Stan, this comment is a bit off topic, but would you consider taking a demo flight in an Eclipse? They have (or until grounding had) a travelling demo flight program for potential customers, and I would be curious for your experience on a demo flight. One thing I have consistently heard about the Eclipse is that it flies very well, from other pilots taking demo flights to journalist pilots taking demo flights. Eclispe might not be very excited about giving you a ride, you might have to be a bit devious to get a ride, and then you might not be quite objective about the flight. But just curious if you had thought about flying in one for a different perspective.

airtaximan said...

flightfollowing,

I wil try to get a first hand account from a pilot posted to this bog - he was given a demo flight for air taxi purposes, just prior to the grounding. The plane was piloted by the Eclipse pilot, he was a passenger...his opinion to me was:

- that's a very small plane
- it was a scary landing

The company considered buying a small test fleet with one passenger seat removed...only 2 passengers

Incidentally, they conducted a customer focus group, as well...and his opinion of the customer reaction to Eclipse for air taxi was: it is unacceptable.

I'd love to hear what Stan has to say, if they let him ride the plane.

airtaximan said...

air sick bag, anyone?

10:38 am: Eclipse Aviation says paperwork problem slows production

http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/52939.html

"Raburn, in the interview and in a letter to customers, said the setbacks were related to paperwork and internal tracking, not the quality or the design of the Eclipse 500"

There is no problem with the design or the quality of the airplane...period...stop making up lies about our delays...

Scary stuff?

Vmc said...

Please take note of VR's comment in the FreeNewMexican:
"We made a mistake," Raburn said. "We thought we were in good shape, that it would be straightforward, open-and-shut process, but unfortunately some people (in the company) didn't do the job they said they were going to do. It's our screwup." He said the problems resulted from some company personnel changes, but he wouldn't provide details.

Well my fellow colleagues, this is reminiscent of VR's modus operandi. Deny all personal responsibility; Place the blame on other entities or individuals (employees); Make plenty of counter-accusations. I have no axe to grind with VR, but I would like to share some factual information that simply reinforces my previous statement. The future of EAC is dependant on a solid leader who is more concerned about safety and longevity than public perceptions and IPO. A historical point of interest if I may; When EAC moved all of their engineering staff from Walled Lake to ABQ in October of 2001, the design was in an embryonic state and the engineering staff was, for lack of better terms, poorly managed. VR's answer? Dismiss 23 of the ~97 engineers on staff, many of which had just sold their homes in MI and committed to EAC with the infamous "crossing of the line" acceptance offer. Those fired may or may not have kowtowed to management, and they may have actually expressed opinions of concern or difference that could help shape the 500 into something better than it is today. For the record, I was not one of them, but have sources that were. Granted, this was still EAC in its infancy, but it set the tone very early on as to the type of company that VR was going to lead. This is the type of company that is led by greed, power, and delusion of grandeur. I am not at all surprised that they find themselves in their current position of angst because of the way they have mis-managed employees and suppliers for the last six years, and now customers. A very wise veteran of many programs (including EAC)predicted back in 2002 that they would be in this exact position following TC. The writing was on the wall then, but hey folks, the show must go on. Depsite our concerns, they will achieve PC and may actually meet their delivery objectives for a period of time. The inquisition will not occur until some of these beauties end up as grave markers for some very influential individuals. At that point in time, the hard questions will start to surface; VR? VR? Yes my colleagues, IPO will have long passed by that time and there will be no VR or other current executives to answer these questions. Sadly, EAC may not make it terribly far into the "Indy500" unless a new driver takes control of this careening mass.

\\

Stan Blankenship said...

I hate to keep harping on this money thing but as "Deep Throat" told us over 30 years ago, follow the money.

It is all going out with nothing coming in and the pressure has to be there to "get-em-out" rather than "get-em-right".


twinpilot,

The design has been tested and certified to the "predicted" loads. The question becomes, do the predicted loads reflect the real world conditions.

flightfollowing,

No, I would have no interest in flying either the Eclipse or the Mustang. There are many out there better qualified to make these kinds of evaluations. Having said that, I suspect the airplane flies pretty good at light weights and at lower altitudes.

Which brings up another shortfall that nobody has talked about. As I recall, the original stall speed was 62 knots and now it is up to 69 knots. Approach speed, assuming 1.3 times stall, would go from 80 knots to 90 knots.

airtaximan,

Your current, if we get the invite for a test flight, your the man.

vmc,

We have heard there are two individuals responsible for the Eclipse quality issues.

The responsibility lies in the person who either did not hire a qualified QC director or if they had the expertise on staff, not listening to how an aircraft manufacturing company has to be structured.

ColdWetMackarelofReality said...

If there is nothing wrong with the airplanes, how did the FAA discover these 'quality escapes'?

This is indicative of serious management and quality issues. Couple that with the known issues (windows, bushings), and the as yet unproven but suggested issues e.g., brakes, compressor stalls, inoperative avionics functions, thin skins, etc., and the 60% deposit for those poor early adopters is beginning to look less like a progrss payment on an airplane in progress and a lot more like the call at the river card in a bluffing contest at Casino Royale.

I have been in industry for some time and have never seen a company so good at manipulating the industry media and yet so bad at following through and delivering.

Stan was spot on, Vern is all over the place all of a sudden, saying the airplane is OK, it is 'just' a quality problem. Eclipse will be leasing back the first 'several' customer aircraft according to one release, hmmmmmm.

At one time, Eclipse had a design team rivaling that of any in industry, with more experience and creativity than anywhere else - how many of those folks are still there? Are losses of those early visionaires responsible for the burgeoning challenges facing the team in Albuquerque?

The chickens are coming home to roost and PT Barnum himself will not survive it, even if his talented team finds a way (like THEY always appear to do).

The Board of Directors needs to act swiftly and massively if they are going to save this airplane, let alone their company and investment.

flight guy said...

Outstanding article by AIN. Kudos to that organization. I won't deter from the article with my own editorials.

Read this-

http://www.ainonline.com/Issues/12_06/12_06_Eclipse_6.htm

flight guy said...

If you could not access the previous address try this one. The Blog cut part of it off.

www.ainonline.com/Issues/12_06/12_06_Eclipse_6.htm

wrangler said...

Congratulations everyone!!!!!!

We have achieved "really stupid" status.


Straight from His Highness himself:
"If you haven’t figured it out by now, there are really stupid people out there who are willing to say anything about us because they decided they hate us, but that’s the way it goes."

Stan Blankenship said...

Stupid? I've been called worse.

airtaximan said...

Hey fellow stupid-folks...

According to the AIN piece,

Vern suggests that the delay in customer deliveries is due to Eclipse trying to obtain the PC, instead of just delivering customer aircraft under a CA. This is the basis for the whole argument that the customer/production aircraft are A-OK, but there is a delay.

If this was true, why would he not just obtain the CA and begin deliveries?

He would not be in the spotlight for the delay.

He would not have the hoopla associated with being grounded, and the suspicion that the whole fleet is grounded, etc...

He would be getting revenue.



Something is a bit amiss.

ColdWetMackarelofReality said...

Delivery under TC requires 100% conformity inspection, by the Feds (not Eclipse), and is of limited duration. The certification system is designed to encourage building an in-house quality system that the FAA will trust to ensure the aircraft meets Type Design.

Part of that trust is earned by telling the Emperor he is not wearing clothes. If the Feds do not beleive the in-house quality system can do that, they will not issue a PC, same thing if the in-house quality system cannot reliably demonstrate that it knows the pedigree of all parts in the system, any non-conformances, any production line modifications, and on and on and on.

It took Cessna a couple months after TC to earn their PC IIRC, and that was for an existing company that has been making airplanes essentially since there have been airplanes, that has very experienced quality personnel, and that has had a good working relationship with a very experienced ACO.

If PT Barnum cannot earn a Production Certificate, why would anyone expect he could deliver aircraft under TC with 100% FAA conformity inspection which is MORE stringent than the PC process?

There will be more announcements about other issues within the next several weeks (the ones this blog has already brought up but which have not yet been 'vetted' to the satisfaction of some of our intrepid blogmates, and I doubt Eclipse will deliver an aircraft in 2006.

When the windshield cracking issue is fixed, probably with a bandaid like a doubler or some other reinforcement, the real question is where does the next crack occur? Is the windshield structural? If yes, then the crack will just move somewhere else, but there will be cracking - perhaps the plane is not as stiff as predicted.

I say again, the Board of Directors and\or customer community need to move to prevent the collapse of this project and this company.

Vern's persecution complex is almost as well developed, as it is deserved - I wonder how he likes his crow.

flyguy said...

Open letter to Vern Raburn

Dear Vern,

It’s interesting how the “really stupid people” out there, who have challenged the reality of your outrageous claims from day one, have been proven correct over and over and over again. You obviously have not hit a single goal that you have set out to accomplish.

Your vision is clearly a failure and your business only survives because of the massive influx of cash and the sheer talent of the marketing spin you can put on the true facts. While this is valuable for startup, it’s completely inappropriate for a serious business where lives are at stake.

At this point, as Eclipse moves from a massive marketing machine to a purportedly serious producer of aircraft, your ego and arrogance is doing nothing more than destroying the precious little positive reputation that Eclipse maintains as a reputable company.


Face it Vern, it’s time to bring someone in as a CEO that can be taken seriously and try to recover the tail spin that your company is obviously in. Your reputation is shot. Suck it up and move on.

mirage00 said...

I'm curious as to why most of you here continue to swing back and fourth between "it's a lousy airplane" to "it's a lousy company"... Which is it? Simple question.... If the published performance numbers are met, is this a good airplane for the money?

http://www.eclipseaviation.com/eclipse_500/capabilities/performance.html

mirage00 said...

The link was cut off... sorry.

www.eclipseaviation.com/eclipse_500/
capabilities/performance.html

Kaptain Kool-Aid said...

My favorite quote from the AIN article: "There’s been no more accomplished by Avidyne. Avidyne as usual is late, late, late, late, so we’re at the same place that we were when we were at Oshkosh in terms of avionics functionality..."

Oh, and Vern, in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

P.S. One more thing, Vern. The NAA called and they'd like the Collier trophy back :-(

Bambazonke said...

"Which is it? Simple question.... If the published performance numbers are met, is this a good airplane for the money?"

- In my opinion this is a bit of both. Addressing the company first- I think that they are ethcially challenged, issues comes to the surface only after they have been hashed in the blogs such as this. They are not forthcoming with any information until such time as there is a crisis to face. The road to Eclipse certification is littered with the corpses of companies that Eclipse has failed relationships with. Their relationship with Avidyne is particularly poor, the people at Avidyne absolutely hate working with Eclipse, mention Eclipse to anyone of them and see the reaction. I'll bet that Avidyne will be the next casualty along the line, and there will of course be a perfectly plausible spin from KKA. Aviation relies on people and companies with integrity, this company has not impressed me with their values, I personally would not fly in an Eclipse because of this. Eclipse are going to be like pharmaceutical company Merck, the FDA approved Viox ergo it is O.K. The FDA approved the data submitted, not the protocol or integrity of the checks, and this is where Eclipse are suspect. This being said, don't take this opinion as an aspersion of the people that work at Eclipse, I am sure that there are many ethical, hard working honest people there, but like a chinese proverb states " a fish rots from the head". Their leader is so drunk on his own being, he is yet to experience the hangover that is heading his way.

As to the value of the plane, if Eclipse can get past the perception that they are not a company of integrity and can produce a plane that does what they say it does, and you don't need to change the windows evey 100 hours, and replace the wing attach fittings every 500 hours etc. etc, then it will be capable of a certain mission. For an aircraft to have a value to a user it must obviously first meet his mission, and secondly if he is interested in asset preservation, meet the missions of other buyers when it comes time to sell the plane. If he is the only guy in the world that wants to fly 500 miles at FL-260 burning 100 gallons an hour to get there carrying 3 people, then this will be a plane to stay the hell away from, because the secondary market might have a different idea of what their typical mission is. I would venture to say that this plane is what is going to be known as a 'tweener' between a Baron and Mustang. Payload of a Baron with full fuel, speed of a Mustang, but the market for 'tweeners' is very small.

Densityaltitude said...

P&W

Densityaltitude said...

Vern needs to stop using the projected figure of 500 airframes in 2007.

Back in March P&WC stated it is ramping up production on the PW600-family series engines to deliver 1,200 a year within four years. So by 2009 there will be enough engine production to power 600 airframes to be shared between
Eclipse 500, Embraer Phenom 100 & Cessna Mustang.

If Cessna (80 years: One Sure Thing)take 250 units, Embraer 150 units that leaves 800 units for Eclipse in 2009 equating to a maximum of 400 airframes.

Stan Blankenship said...

densityaltitude,

Be patient with Vern, he is just learning to adjust his numbers.

In his Novemer 27 letter to customers. he assured them Eclipse would deliver 10 units by the end of the year.

In his December 1 interview with AIN he stated, "We always said the number would be in the four, five or six range..."

EclipseBlogger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan Blankenship said...

eclipseblogger,

Your interpretation doesn't square Vern's late Nov prediction of delivering "approximately 10" by the end of the year.

The point I would make is that numbers are being thrown around loosely with no basis of fact, but what sounds good for the occasion.

Tell the owners we will soon be delivering lots of airplanes, don't forget to send in your 60% progress payment.

Tell the less eager aviation community, maybe it is four or five or six. Keep their expectations low.

Certification was 09-30-06 per the Type Data Sheet.

flyforfun said...

All this press that Vern is getting lately with these interviews is about two things. Getting those first 200 brave soles to fork over that check for 500K+ and to calm the nerves of the rest of the flock to keep them from starting a mass migration to ABQ. I helped a friend spec. out his plane last week and he was just a little concerned about sending in the money with AC1 still sitting in ABQ in a holding pattern. I am feeling a little better about my Phenom 100 that has not even flown yet. At least I know they can build and produce a plane. They told him that his plane would be delivered by June 07. Thats close to 200 planes.

Stan Blankenship said...

flyforfun,

I think you stunned our fellow correspondents into silence with your report on the intentions of your friend.

Do I have the wording right on that TV ad? "Friends don't let friends make bad investments!"

Is Embraer asking for progress payments?

flyforfun said...

Stan, this whole thing reminds me so much of that other great aviation con-man, Jim Bede. He and Vern are cut from the same cloth. Think back on Bede's claims and they are very simular except much less expensive. Embraer is asking for 50K now and one progress payment next year when they fly and then not until 1 year prior to delivery. The balance is due upon delivery. Very fair for a company that builds $20MM jets.

EclipseBlogger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bambazonke said...

Here is some more from KKA:

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 Raburn
President & 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 Raburn
President & CEO



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


Overview:
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.