Dateline: April, 2019
Publisher: Albuquerque Journal
Subject: Where Are They Now?
On the twentieth anniversary of the launch of the Eclipse 500 Jet, the aviation writer of this newspaper has conducted a retrospective in this interesting aircraft and the company that ‘produced’ it. Few of the participants could be located and even fewer would comment for publication. An extraordinary resource developed however. Using a powerful computer tool, the writer has conducted a thorough search of the old Internet and located the ‘website’ called Eclipse Aviation Critic. A sole ‘poster’ remains active and through him we found the whereabouts of some of the players.
Vern Raeburn, former president of the company, now plays piano in the lounge of the Holiday Inn in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Reached by phone he said, “Yeah, I miss the old days at Eclipse Aircraft. We had a good run. I like the creative uses that some of the aircraft have found. The Eclipse low-riders up in Espanola are really neat.
Vern sighed and then said, “Many of us had to find jobs outside the aviation industry and I like it here at the Lamplighter Lounge. Jim Bede stops by occasionally and we talk about old times. He’s got a great singing voice.”
Peg Bilson, former chief operating officer, is hostess at the International House of Pancakes in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. After repeated tries she returned our call, “Yes, it’s the same Peg Bilson. You know I had a bright future in aviation but I always knew that my Embry-Riddle education would also prepare me for a career in the food services industry. You know we have the best blueberry pancakes in northeastern Rhode Island.”
Ken Meyer, a former depositor, was introspective. “It was a real education to see the Very Light Jet fad buildup and then diminish. Through it all, I’ve kept my now-forty-year-old Cessna piston twin. And now I’ve put a deposit on a really exciting new development – The RAM XXVI Conversion. My liquid cooled engines are being replaced by motors incorporating a heavy water cooling jacket and palladium pistons. You know Pons and Fleischmann had it right with Cold Fusion in 1989. My Cessna 340 is really gonna go now.
”Few of the other ‘bloggers’ could be located. Only one appeared to have done well with new aviation concepts. A man using the handle, ‘gadfly’, has operated his Moeller Skycar for five years now. Reached by email, he said that he was working on a new ‘STC’, which stands for Submarine Type Certificate. “It’s going to be the first truly multimode vehicle on the planet,” he wrote.
The most notable of those involved in the Eclipse story is former President Bill Richardson. He operated the sole flying example of the type. “I wanted it to be called Air Force One when I was using it,” President Richardson said. “But the best radio call I could get was Air Force Zero Point One. We took all the seats out except two – one in front and one in back for my, well… rotund figure.”
The whereabouts of Stan Blankenship, the founder of the website, is unknown. He was in a work release program while incarcerated at a minimum security facility. While picking up trash along the Interstate, he inexplicably fell back behind the van, took off his orange vest, dropped it and slipped into the woods.
Another 'blogger', the Black Tulip, was recently released based on new DNA evidence. He is thought to be living in a cheap motel near Cleveland, much like a character in the Willy Nelson song, “Pancho and Lefty.”
From the fertile mind of Black Tulip
The tulip mania peaked in the Netherlands during the 1630s. The black tulip was the most sought after, until found to be biologically impossible.