Monday, September 25, 2006
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
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
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?
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:
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:
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:
Friday, September 15, 2006
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
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?
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.
Eclipse Aviation Corporation
11:56 AM, September 11, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
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
Friday, September 08, 2006
The comments just keep getting more informative.
Kaptain Kool-Aid said...
First off, thank you, Stan, for this creating this forum. I have followed it for the past several months and enjoy your witty style of presenting the facts as you see them.
The recent comments generated by your other readers have inspired me to join the discussion and add my own two cents.
srmach5 makes some great points and I agree that insurance requirements are going to be a major road block to many would-be jet jockeys. The Eclipse 500 may well be the easiest to fly, most highly integrated turbine aircraft this side of the Falcon 900EX, but it is still a pressurized, FIKI-approved, twin-engine jet, capable of flying nearly eight miles high at more than 350 ktas (but not at the same time). The point is, you just simply cannot transition directly from a piston single into a twin jet and safely fly by yourself – no matter how “easy” the plane is to fly. A pilot with less than 1,500 TT, 500 multi, and at least some turbine time should expect to be sitting next to a “mentor pilot” for quite some time.
Insurance companies like to see pilots gradually progress from flying simple, trainer-type aircraft to more and more complex aircraft before reaching the “holy grail” of the twin jet. Yes, I realize that turbine aircraft are actually easier to operate and Eclipse has gone to great lengths to ensure their product is the simplest jet ever built, flying-wise. However, the problem is not just flying the aircraft, but rather operating it safely within today’s congested and complex airspace. Controllers are used to dealing with professionals in the upper flight levels, not dilettantes. Additionally, although Eclipse touts the ability to “fly up to 41,000 feet, avoiding almost all weather” (a direct quote from the FAQ on Eclipse’s website) you still have to occasionally deal with adverse weather when you decide to land. And while AVIO is very capable, it cannot land the plane in IFR minimum conditions… at Teterboro… at night… in February! Speaking of AVIO, this leads me to the real topic I would like to address in this post.
Avidyne has enjoyed much success since introducing the world’s first truly “glass panel” flight deck for general aviation. Their first generation product, FlightMax Entegra, got its launch in the Cirrus SR20/22 in 2003. From there it made its way into the panels of Diamond, Columbia (nee Lancair), Piper, Adam and Symphony aircraft. Garmin subsequently introduced its G1000 glass panel system into the marketplace. It first appeared in the Cessna singles, then Mooney, Beech and even Tiger aircraft. Diamond and Columbia have since certified the G1000 in their aircraft as well (Diamond has dropped Avidyne, while Columbia still “officially” offers it, but it is my understanding that since introducing the G1000 not one customer has opted for the Entegra package). Garmin has a great reputation, solid company financials (over $1B in the bank and ZERO debt!) and, most importantly, stellar customer service. Avidyne’s reputation in the customer service area is dismal by comparison. Please note: I do NOT work for Garmin, but I am in the aviation industry and have sampled products from both companies firsthand. The fact of the matter is both companies produce good products, each with their own set of pros and cons. When they are functioning properly they’re great, but when the electrons start misbehaving that’s where Garmin is light-years ahead of their competition.
Vern Raburn has stated publicly in a variety of outlets that the certification delays affecting the Eclipse program are the direct result of his vendors not meeting their timelines. His strongest criticism is aimed at Avidyne. When the Eclipse 500 finally receives its certification in the near future, it will be delivered WITHOUT the following avionics capability:
Flight Management System (FMS)GPS Navigation (i.e., no moving map)
Weather RadarElectronic Checklists
Traffic Collision Avoidance
Ground Proximity Warning
Note: In addition to the above, both Autothrottle capability and Flight Into Known Ice (FIKI) approval will NOT be available when certification is granted.
To make up for this appalling lack of flight critical items, Eclipse is going to issue each affected customer a brand new Garmin (hmmm?) GPSMAP 496 to restore at least some of the missing functionality caused by Avidyne’s delays.
This whole avionics snafu is ironic as Eclipse has fought their customers repeated requests to install electromechanical backup instrumentation because it was deemed unnecessary due to their huge reliability factor (They claim a 0.00000001% chance of failure). So, let me get this straight. Eclipse’s $775k… I mean $837.5k… er, $995k… um $1.295M… Oh, wait a minute, its not June 2000 anymore! O.K., so their $1.52M aircraft can’t do what a $2,800 handheld wonderbox can! Unbelievable! This all gives credence to my belief that Eclipse is going to continue to have serious issues with AVIO - and its manufacturer - from the day they hand over the first set of keys. If they’re having this much trouble now, just wait until they have upwards of 200 airplanes scattered about the country with ADAHRS failures popping up like dandelions in Stan’s neighbors yard! And those customers who signed up for the JetComplete enhanced service program, are in for a rather rude awakening if they expect to make one phone call and have their electronic demons exorcised within 24 hours as promised by the program. Let’s just say that Avidyne is not known for carrying a large stockpile of spares on hand.
Before I conclude this post, for anyone with an extra 90 minutes to kill you can listen in on an Eclipse teleconference between Vern Raburn and his deposit holders. Here is web address:
The teleconference originally took place on July 7, 2006 and is primarily comprised of Vern explaining the deficiencies in the current aircraft followed by a lengthy Q&A period with individual deposit holders. It’s a very interesting conversation to say the least. My personal favorite quote from Vern comes near the end of the recording where he says, “…in essence, what I have said is we have used up all of our design margin”. In other words, folks, it’s as good as it going to get. I am now reminded of one of the oldest axioms of our industry: It’s easy to make a small fortune in aviation… just start with a large one! Good luck, Mr. Raburn!
P.s. Does anyone happen to have one of those WCSYC (We Couldn’t, So You Can’t) stickers Eclipse handed out years ago lying? I bet a pristine one would bring big money on eBay today!
12:38 AM, September 08, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
For new readers to this blog, this is the 23rd post that started April 11, 2006. For content on the previous 20, check the August 12 summary. Also, there are knowledgeable and thoughtful readers posting comments as well. This is especially true for the past three posts, the material is certainly worth reading.
One reader has knowledge of insurance issues and has evaluated the program offered by Eclipse. It is not my area of expertise, I don't know if he is right or wrong, but he is waving a warning flag so we are going to put it up.
Thanks for the comments. I would like to point out some of what I believe to be flawed data on the Eclipse website, specifically your insurance link.
First of all, did anyone notice the limits of liability at $1M, $5M and $10M respectively? A very important question is whether or not this is a 'smooth' limit or a per seat limit.
Secondly, their resource is a broker. I would like to preface my comment to follow by stating how important brokers are and the value they bring to many aviation businesses. In the case of policies however; they (as everyone else) are at the mercy of the underwriters. If anyone is even remotely familiar with aviation insurance coverage they will quickly understand who finite the market is with the availability of desirable underwriters. I would love to know which underwriter is willing to take the risk on a pilot (ASMEL) with only 500 hours of total time and limited instrument and multi-engine ratings.
Third, note how only a $1M policy is available for a pilot with the minimum qualifications. I anticipate many of the individuals purchasing this caliber of aircraft will have insurance policies in place at their place of business requiring far more than a $1M limit.
Fourth, as a point of comparison on the premiums, I find it intriguing how high some of the rates are, even for the experienced level pilots. I have personally seen premiums for single engine turbine aircraft which have a higher hull value and $5M smooth liability limits for what Eclipse considers to be an experienced pilot somewhere in the $18K - $20K range...not ~ $30K as indicated on the Eclipse web site.
Mark my words....insurance will be a well underestimated thorn in the side of Eclipse in the not too distant future.
I wonder as a point of interest how Vern has has product liability spread amongst the underwriters. God forbid, when the first Eclipse 500 becomes a smoking hole in the ground (hopefully it never will, but for the time being let's just pretend it might happen), the underwriting community will not be very kind to Eclipse and it's owners.
I don't know about anyone else but I have never heard of an insurance underwriter being forgiving or loyal to an OEM when it comes to policy renewal time.
2:00 PM, September 07, 2006
Sunday, September 03, 2006
A significant number of Vern's 2,400+ orders are "spec" orders. Like scalpers at a football game, speculators buy in at the beginning of a program hoping to cash in big, offering early delivery positions at prices lower than what end-of-the-line deliveries might represent.
Offers on the web are popping up like dandelions in my neighbors yard. Here is how a typical offer reads:
A New Mexico speculator has put down $155,000 on Serial Number 003. He is willing to sell the position for $655,000 which puts a half-million premium in his pocket. This payment is due on certification. The buyer pays Eclipse $840,000 on delivery (was scheduled for August 2006).
This same speculator makes the same offer for S/N 015, 072 and 143.
You can find actual offers on the following sites:
Speculators have "visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads." They are betting they can re-sell the positions at a premium. Their bet is on an airplane they believed would fly 375 kts at 41,000 ft and have 1,280 nm range. As the previous post suggests, the airplane Vern will deliver may only fly 330 kts at 30,000 ft. A lower cruise altitude means higher fuel flows: range may be reduced to under 900 nm.
With reduced performance, the premium value and the odds of selling the aircraft change dramatically. Even legitimate buyers who intend to utilize the airplane for their own purposes may have second thoughts. This could result in a flood of cancellations.
It might be like a "run on the bank" in the 1920's before the FDIC. Depositors would get nervous about a bank's liquidity and start withdrawing funds. The word would get around and pretty soon all of the customers would run to the bank demanding immediate withdrawals. The banks would have to lock their doors, often permanently.
A 2006 "run on a shaky airplane company" might get interesting. It's a dilemma for the speculators, hold on and hope for the premium risking that if the company goes "tits up," they lose their ante. Unfortunately for them, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation does not cover deposits for over-hyped airplanes.
If Eclipse has more performance then what they are showing, take a "legitimate aviation writer" for a ride. Load the airplane with full fuel plus three adults and demonstrate your ability to climb to 41,000 ft and fly to a destination 1,000 nm distant.
That is exactly what we did on May 23, 1975 when people questioned Lear's claim for range on the new Model 36. With five on board, we flew from Toronto to Vancouver against the wind, shot a missed approach (or low-and-over as the Canadian controller advised), then returned to Calgary for landing. The leg west was 1,807 nm, then 370 nm to Calgary. I was over 6 hours in the co-pilot seat, never unbuckled my seat belt.
A legitimate writer would be somebody like Mac McClellan from Flying Magazine. The buffoon from aero-news.net who has been Vern's lap-dog media outlet would not qualify. Others have posted pages of material on the checkered past of James "Captain Zoom" Campbell. While Campbell claims it is all lies, you will have to find this material on your own just as I had to by googling - james captain zoom campbell.
And yes Campbell and I have clashed over Eclipse issues. We had a two hour running gun battle via e-mails on the morning of July 4, 2006. He accused me of stalking and harassment. Threatened to call the police, he was in Florida, I am in Wichita. I threatened to put copies of his e-mail up on a blog, he threatened to sue for copyright violations. The fireworks started early that day!