Saturday, July 07, 2007

Secret Projects

Tempus fugit...1,073 Saturday mornings ago (December 13, 1986 to be exact), I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, in my skivvies, brushing my teeth. We were living in our old house that was about a quarter of a mile off the center-line for the back-course to Wichita Mid-Continent's runway 19L, five miles to the South.

Suddenly, I began to hear this distinctive whine. It sounded a bit like a Beech Starship, but not quite. It sounded a bit like the Piaggio, but not quite. I went into our bedroom and out onto the second floor balcony, and there it was, a Cessna Citation powered by twin turbo-prop pusher propellers and chased by a second Citation in trail. No time for a camera, but WOW!

Since I was no longer working at Learjet and had my own company I was free to do as I pleased, so I picked up the phone and called Nunzio (Mike) Lupo, the aviation writer for the Wichita Eagle-Beacon.

"Mike," I said, "You are not going to believe what I seen." and described the event.
Mike said, "So the bastards finally did it."
"Did what?" I asked.
"Fly their damn airplane. I've been hearing rumors about the project, but Cessna keeps denying the existence of any new project."

We talked a bit more and he said he would get back to me. Monday he called and asked if I would come down to his office and work with a staff artist. Tuesday the paper ran the story complete with the artist's sketch of the prototype.

At this point, the story gets murky. Some have said the project was being bootlegged and had not been approved by General Dynamics (Cessna's parent company at the time) which was unhappy with its existence and subsequently killed the program.

Timing was not good for the project, Cessna had previously announced the layoff of about 800 workers that was to occur before Christmas, just days away...merry xmas, here is your pink slip. Who knows, but to my knowledge, the airplane never flew again and the project was killed.

What does this have to do with Eclipse? Our fellow blogger airtaximan, has made several comments alluding to the development of a new 4-place single-engine jet by Eclipse. Further, he has questioned why the company would devote resources to a new project when the first one is a long ways from being completed, especially as it relates to any use of the 60% advance deposits made by the early position holders, towards the development of any new airplane.

Does airtaximan have credibility? This is a blog, anybody can say anything but ATM was the first and was persistent about the number of DayJet orders and options. Documents from the State of New Mexico and the Iacobucci interview by Karen DiPiazza from CharterX eventually backed ATM's assertion.

Would Eclipse have a 4-place under development? Mike McConnell made that suggestion at the EBACE gathering last May. Re-read his words on this blog's May 24th post.

Will Vern spring this big surprise at Oshkosh to divert attention from the numerous problems and failed goals that beset this troubled company? We don't have long to wait!

Note, caption on the Eagle-Beacon illustration reads:

Cessna' Secret Airplane

A modified Cessna Citation was spotted landing Saturday at Mid-Continent Airport. This is an artist's drawing of the plane, as described by the Wichita Pilot who saw it land. The plane had a Citation body with rear-facing turbine-powered-propeller engines and a T-shaped tail.

(Obviously, this is not quite correct because I did not see it land...)


Shane Price said...


Actually, the thought did strike me that a twin jetprop E499.75 might be a get outta jail card for a while.

However, is there a turbine small enough, and a prop suitable for it?

The other problem is certification. Admas did it the 'right' way, with the twin prop first, then the jet. Minimal changes from one airframe to the other.

Eclipse can't handle one design through to a finish. Two would be the end of the dream, as well as the company.

What am I thinking of? Forget the whole idea!


cj3driver said...

...Don’t forget, Vern also states the Paperclipse will fly 1640 nm and land with reserves. ….It says so right here….

I might add, Mike Press currently plans a stop on a 500 nm trip, because 500 nm is “pushing it” in the current state. Even if the fuel is cheaper at the stop, add in the cost of tires and windows, and wont be. Oh,… its covered under JetComplete. …. But we don’t use those numbers, … they come from Vern.

bill e. goat said...

This sighting was back during the heady days of pusher turboprop development- Douglas had a modified DC-9/MD-whatever, somebody had a 727 with the left engine replaced with a pusher (GE engine, not sure if it was Boeing or GE funding), Learfan-2100, Piaggio, Starship, Embraer, even the Ruskies.

(Whilest poo-pooing seeming antiquity the Ruskie's Bear bomber (hm, compared to our bright shiney new 1962 B-52's), somewhere I came across a chart that showed propulsion efficiency as a function of fuel consumption. Seems to me the chart showed that up to around m 0.7+, props won. I was surprised their advantage extended to such a high speed- probably some aero types out that can enlighten us).

With fuel prices and green house gas concerns, maybe it's time for Vern to "spin" a prop, instead of PR.

Osh Kosh 2006 was the scene of FAA-DC capitulation to photo oportunity last year. Interesting to see what bag of, ah, tricks, Vern has in store for this years stunt.


"If fuel were at a buck or so a gallon, they'd be clamouring." Ron Welsch, GE's former manager of commercial ops", (circa ?1990?)

bill e. goat said...

Hi Fred,
Thanks for your economics observations- I hope we can look forward to more of your market place analyses.

"so when something is "revolutionary" always ask yourself a simple question " are peoples stupid enough not to have done it before ??"

I'd say an Eclipse-VLJ was technologically infeasible until the advent of the VLJ-engines. (Ken pointed out that engine development drives airframe development, and Gunner pointed out that reversing that order leads to ill compromise).

I think Vern was hot to coup the competition by being first to market- the emerging spectre of single-engine VLJ's complicates the picture somewhat.

Perhaps (big leap) Vern did anticipate single-engine VLJ's near the Eclipse price point, and chose to emphasis air taxi applications, foreseeing a shift amongst owner-operators to single engine planes. (That is probably too large of leap).

I haven't kept up with the blog enough lately- is the 4-place Vern Sky Cycle anticipated to be single or twin? (Seems like it would have to be a single to have an appropriate price and market tier placement relative to the E-500).

gadfly said...

The “PaperClips” is not original, as far as paper planes go. A long time ago, another company (Tru-Flite) produced fourteen revolutionary “paper” airplanes, that actually performed as promised.

But be warned, you must invest another copper (or 1943 steel) “penney” in each one, to bring the “CG” within limits. Also, you must fly them only in clear, dry weather, VFR, . . . and below 18,000 feet.

You may find many similarities between the “PaperClips” and the “Penney” gliders, except the “PaperClips” may not be remembered in another sixty years.


hummer said...

Market Price
Mike Press & Controller
From the last observation, it looked like about 40 positions were for sale and none of them were being strongly discounted.
Correct me if I'm wrong.

Plastic_Planes said...

BEG said:

This sighting was back during the heady days of pusher turboprop development- Douglas had a modified DC-9/MD-whatever, somebody had a 727 with the left engine replaced with a pusher (GE engine, not sure if it was Boeing or GE funding), Learfan-2100, Piaggio, Starship, Embraer, even the Ruskies.

GE developed the UDF ("Unducted Fan" engine back around this time frame. They had a protoype on the LH pylon on an old 727 and later did flights with MD on a modified MD80 series aircraft.

It was truly a unique product (two sets of counter rotating carbon composite blades - I believe 12 blades per fan). GE paid for most of the development costs for this program. The whole thing was scrapped because fuel prices were relatively low back then and the savings didn't justify the development expense.

I often wonder if anyone still opens that drawer and pulls out the drawings now...


paul said...

A major problem with the unducted fan on a fuselage mounted engine was the noise. They tryed installing noise generators ala noise cancelling headsets to offset the engines noise. Metal fatigue was also a problem.

bill e. goat said...

Hi Gadfly,

I looked up True-Flt, came up with some interesting spec from the internet-

Realistic Spin
Truer Flight Path
Great for Indoor or Outdoor Use
Use Woods or Irons
3 Balls

Unrealistic Spin
Less-than-True CEO
Great for Indoor Use
Wood Trim
Big Ones.

I did like the neato dimpled airfoil though...

Black Tulip said...

A peek into the future…

Oshkosh, Wisconsin - July 23, 2007

Excitement is running high here at the opening day of EAA AirVenture 2007. As the curtain is pulled open at the Eclipse Aviation tent, this reporter has conducted an exclusive interview with Vern Raeburn, President and CEO.

“I am pleased to end months of speculation about Eclipse Aviation. As some have guessed, we are introducing a new jet here at Oshkosh. It was only natural that we build on the proven track record of the Eclipse 500 and add a successor to this remarkable aircraft.”

“We will achieve multiple goals with the new Eclipse 1000,” continued Raeburn. “As the world knows, we pioneered the Very Light Jet revolution. It was inevitable that we draw imitators and the ‘space’ is getting a little crowded. We saw an unmet need for an Ultra Light Jet and have moved to fill the void.”

“Our statisticians and engineers analyzed hundreds of thousands of general aviation flights conducted over several decades. We found that the average flight carried only 2.73 people. Having empty seats in an aircraft just adds structure, weight and drag. It is crazy that no one has done this before – the new Eclipse 1000 has exactly 2.73 seats. There is no drag penalty for unused seats. Less drag means more speed and range.”

Vern added, “We also analyzed the number of engines used in most general aviation flights. Without boring you with all the numbers, I’ll tell you that we rounded off the number of engines to one. My engineers told me it would be simpler if the number of engines were an integer.”

“I’ve saved the best for last,” said Raeburn, his voice rising. “Eclipse Aviation is fulfilling its social and moral commitment to the environment by introducing the first aircraft with a Carbon Footprint of zero. The aircraft is powered by anhydrous hydrazine and red fuming nitric acid. This fuel and oxidizer combination was perfected in the Titan missile half a century ago. Pull out your high school chemistry book and you won’t find a ‘C’ for carbon in either of these. There is another advantage – these chemicals are hypergolic, they ignite on contact. This allows us to eliminate the exciters and igniters found in other jet aircraft. Leave it to Eclipse to disrupt the dinosaurs.”

“In fact the only carbon emissions leaving the Eclipse 1000 come from the human occupants. We figure our outflow valve scrubbers will take care of most of it. The approved flight manual carries a limitation prohibiting consumption of enchiladas or burritos within six hours of departure.”

Vern turned his head as a commotion erupted at the back of the Eclipse tent, “I gotta go. Our guest of honor is here. Former Vice President Spotted Al Gore is going to unveil the little beast. He’s bringing his non-refundable deposit for an early serial number jet. We’re going to run the check right down to the bank. Gosh, I think he could take up all 2.73 seats by himself. Hey, but don’t print that; we’re off the record.”

Black Tulip

fred said...

hummer ...

on market prices : you may be right , 40 for sale is probably the number !

don't as to know if it's discounted (strongly or not) let me remind you of some basics ...

prices are the image of what potential buyers are abble and WILLING to pay for something ...

in an other way , if you have a beachfront mansion in arizona worth billions , put it to sale for 10.000 and nobody want to buy it , obvipusly the market value is even less than those 10.000 !

so 40 to sale even before the plane is really flying means it is a speculation market
(this is what vern as probably misunderstood = a blade has always two sharp sides ! by promoting the orderbook thru speculation , he may have doomed EA future ...)

ok ? so if you were a speculator , you buy on day 1 and sale back on day XXX for less than factory price?? why ? how about making profit ? how about not loosing thru inflation ?? (only that = it's already something around 5% a year gone up in smoke ....)

AND more important = for how long those positions are on sale ?? seems to be quite a long time , NO?

which indicate there is more seller (at that price) than buyers = it is a seller market (one of the worst scenario = unless it is a miracle success , most peoples will remenber the low price and won't see too many justifications for prices hikes ....making situation even more weird for EA....)

so when position are to be resold at this price , i would say the trust speculators did put in EA is already gone ....

(if they had any left , position would be at least at factory price ! the thing would be a success , the abillity to get a wonder-jet whitout having to wait for ages would be priceless .... and to have to wait untill success is confirmed wouldn't be a problem ....!!!)

NML said...


Nunzio Michael Lupo here.

I don't remember the profanity, but I sure do remember that story and the pusher-prop popularity of the mid-1980s.

I left Wichita to cover the auto industry for the Detroit Free Press in 1987. Today, I'm managing editor/news & information for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and

I visited Wichita a couple of years back, made my way to Jabara Airport and saw a corral of Starships. Ah, those were the days.



Stan Blankenship said...


Congratulations, you have done well since leaving Wichita.

Sorry if I misquoted you on your response to Cessna flying the prototype pusher. But I do remember you saying you knew Cessna was working on the project and that you could not get them to divulge any information.

In follow up to the story, I later heard that the prototype was not a General Dynamics approved project which got Russ Meyer in some hot water causing the project to be shelved. Any recollection on this?