Vern Speaks With an Owner's Group
As posted to the Eclipse Owners Board:
Yesterday the leadership of the E5C had the opportunity to speak directly with Vern Raburn for about 60 minutes on a wide variety of issues. Vern was very upbeat, candid, and open with us. While many of this comments were given confidentially, we felt it important to give you all a sense of the meeting.
First and foremost, Vern is very optimistic that the delivery schedule published last week will be met. The FAA is on premise and well into the inspection process for COA on three to five aircraft in the next few days, and on schedule for 10 in March and then about 1 every two days in April.
Eclipse is continuing to work towards a PC. The PC audit is complete and the FAA has responded with a list of issues that need to be addressed before the PC is issued. Eclipse feels that they are in very good shape to meet these issues and that the list is actually not as big as others have faced in the same situation and time frame.
Vern candidly admits that going for PC right from the first airplane was not wise, and now has split the effort. While getting the PC is very important, receiving it will not really affect production until later this spring, and Eclipse can meet the current schedule for a few months with the FAA signing off each individual airplane. Actually as the FAA signs off more planes, typically the process gets easier and more efficient. (This is the process for example that Mooney used on all their aircraft for many years.)
Vern repeated Eclipse's commitment to retrofitting all aircraft for both the wingtip/speed mod and the AVIO NG mod. Right now, as only an estimate, the wingtip/speed mod should be in place somewhere in the 40 to 50's serial number, and the AVIO NG mod available in the low to mid 100's, but this is certainly subject to change given unforeseen challenges.
Everyone at Eclipse is very confident about the wingtip/speed mod, and we get the impression that it will meet or exceed the expected numbers and maybe even shave a few pounds off the empty weight of the aircraft.
The AVIO NG mod also seems to be a very positive change. IS&S has a great deal of experience in customizing software and hardware to existing high level commercial aircraft systems. They have done it for many other commercial aircraft manufacturers, and have a great deal of experience writing the "bullet-proof" software interfaces that are required on a platform like Eclipse.
On a related subject, the "synthetic DME" that is required to fly Eclipse above FL240 was not functioning because of the inability to update the database. This is being addressed and all aircraft delivered before the AVIO NG changeover will have it operational, and of course after the changeover the FMS system in AVIO NG will meet all FAA requirements for high level flights.
Vern also believes that the weight increase of the AVIO NG system will be optimized in development to bring it in at the smallest number possible. With each pound equal to about 1NM in distance; an extra 30 pounds should have a marginal affect on range.
We brought up the idea of re-looking at the LX option to cut out some weight to make a "LX light" option. And Vern said he will investigate it, but reiterated how difficult it was to change specs, even on the interior, since the interior is part of the total certification process. He expressed his desire to use continuous improvement techniques to eliminate weight when ever possible.
Vern also told us that the windshield issues that have been reported are all but completely fixed and should be no issue going forward.
Finally, we all walked away from the call with a positive feeling about Eclipse. All of us have the same skin in the game that many of you do, as three of us have our 60% deposits at Eclipse and the fourth owns the first aircraft. So our concerns mimic yours. But Vern seems very connected to the critical issues facing Eclipse, and has a short term as well as long term strategy to meet them all head on including production, training, finance, and support.
We still believe communication is an unresolved issue, and pushed hard for an increased effort in this area. Vern believes that he cannot satisfy every customer, but he sincerely wants to make as many customers happy as possible because they own an outstanding, innovative, value rich aircraft with outstanding support. An example of this effort is his decision to retrofit all aircraft with both mods, something we think is costing Eclipse north of $10 million.
Candidly Vern does read the website (note: this probably refers to the Eclipse Owners Board, not this blog) and like any normal person gets a bit disappointed about some of the personal remarks made about him. (While criticism on any topic is certainly open game on the website, we don't think personal remarks aimed at an individual are productive.)
Many times Eclipse cannot respond directly to an issue because of confidentiality agreements or sometimes there is no answer yet formulated. But in the last few weeks, Vern has begun to answer more and more issues, and has asked his staff to get information out to the customer base as quickly as possible, even when the "perfect" answer is not readily available.
We, the leadership of the E5C recognize that our role is not to repeat the "company" line, but to continue to push for relevant, hard information and facts that will help inform and support the Eclipse customer community.
We think we can do it in a non-adversarial, non-combative manner, but still ask and get answers to the hard questions. We did so on this phone call and came away feeling that the next few weeks and month or two will bring much better news and communication to Eclipse customers.
We have asked Vern to continue to meet with us periodically so we can press those issues that have not been resolved by others in the organization. And we look forward to hearing from you and reading about your concerns, issues, criticism and comments so we can continue to make the E5C a responsive, sharing owner's organization.