Vern's Oshkosh Report
Possibly more than any other trade show, Eclipse looks forward to AirVenture and the annual gathering with customers, friends and fellow aviation enthusiasts in Oshkosh. It is an event that symbolizes innovation and aviation dreams. We know this well as Oshkosh is where Eclipse Aviation was launched in 2000. It is also becoming a vacation destination for families, and Eclipse is playing a role in helping EAA add this new dimension to its aviation mecca heritage.
Last week found our team returning and recovering from all of the excitement of EAA's AirVenture 2007 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Now that we have had a chance to reflect on our time in Oshkosh, I would like to share some of the major highlights and successes of this year's AirVenture for Eclipse.
As I am sure most of you know by now, one of the major developments we revealed at the show was the Eclipse Concept Jet (ECJ) - our concept of what a single engine jet should be. While interest in the ECJ was stronger than we ever imagined it would be, I want to reiterate that the ECJ is just that; a concept.
It is not a new Eclipse product, and while customers and non-customers alike begged us to do so, we are not taking deposits. Our number one priority has been and continues to be finishing the Eclipse 500, delivering your airplane on schedule, and giving you an extraordinary after delivery ownership experience. We will not make a decision on whether to move forward with the ECJ until the end of this year at the earliest. I would like to reiterate one more time that there were absolutely no resources diverted from the Eclipse 500 efforts. Although many critics continue to make such claims, it is simply not true. To learn more about the ECJ, please go to
For me, one of the week's high points was seeing many of you stop by our display and visit with our team in our VIP area. More than 200 customers and guests attended our annual customer breakfast on Friday, July 27th, but for those who were not able to join us, I would like to fill you in on what we covered. It was my privilege to start the morning by taking FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and Assistant Administrator for Aviation Policy, Planning, and Environment Dan Elwell on an Eclipse 500 demo flight.
Dan flew the 500 and Marion and I sat in the cabin. We were able to do a low pass over runway 36 allowing her to view the Oshkosh grounds from the air - low and slow. As we finished up our flight, Peg kicked off the customer presentation, and I joined her for the second half.
Peg provided an in-depth program update that covered topics including: Deliveries and Planned Production, Training and Simulators, Pitot / AOA System, Cockpit Windshield and Side Windows, Avio NG Schedule and Functionality, Future Certifications and the Service Center and Maintenance schedule.
Peg also updated everyone on the Performance Improvement Plan which she was pleased to announce had been FAA certified the night before. Below are some of the highlights:
* Our training organization is hiring more instructors and we will have our first Flight Training Device (FTD) online in late August, allowing Eclipse to recover our pilot training schedule by October. The first full-motion simulator will be operational in October.
* The performance improvement modifications have been certified by the FAA, are already in production starting with AC39 and will be retrofitted to the first 38 aircraft. Our Product Support team is in the final stages of planning these upgrades and customer aircraft modifications will begin by mid-September. The majority of these mods will be accomplished in our Eclipse Service Center in Gainesville, Florida.
* The newly-designed windshield and cockpit side windows will be certified by the end of this month, and be upgraded on the first 73 aircraft when the cycle lives are reached.
*Avio NG is expected to be certified by the end of October and in production in November. A matrix of functionality cut-in is provided in the PowerPoint presentation linked below.
* Future certifications, including Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI) and EASA certifications are expected early in 2008.
After Peg's program update, I arrived to spotlight some other big news we announced in Oshkosh. We revealed Eclipse's new color weather radar, which will be manufactured by Japan Radio Company, Ltd. (JRC). This system has the same functionality as the current Honeywell RDR2000 radar, and will be standard equipment later this year. The Honeywell radar will be offered as an additional cost option in the future. The new radar integrates seamlessly with Avio NG and will cut into production with Avio NG.
I also described in depth how Avio NG's scalable and extensible architecture makes it FAA NextGen-ready, making the Eclipse 500 essentially "future-proof."
Furthermore, its easy software update design is a core tenet of Avio NG, extending the value and affordability of the Eclipse 500. This is evidenced by how easy it is to upgrade Avio NG with a common USB drive. In fact, we flew our first Avio NG-equipped flight test aircraft, N506EA, to the show for customers to see on Friday morning and also had an interactive Avio NG demonstrator on display throughout the show. One of the reasons that the ECJ was able to go from design start to first flight in 200 days is that the Avio architecture allowed a seamless drop in - we powered it up and it worked in just four hours.
Another major announcement was the start of our auction sales program, or Bidder's Club. The eBay-powered auction of aircraft serial # 000038 has begun and people are indeed bidding on the plane. The auction gives people who don't want to wait until 2009 a chance to buy and own an Eclipse 500 now. More than 200 people have registered on eBay to bid on the aircraft. The Bidder's Club members, who joined between the year 2000 and 2002 have an advantage because they have been accumulating Eclipse dollars each month since they entered. The auction ends at 8:00 p.m. EDT on August 10th, and the aircraft will immediately be available to the winning bidder for delivery in Albuquerque.
If you missed AirVenture 2007 this year and would like to see the presentation from this year's annual customer breakfast, we have posted an Adobe; pdf on the Eclipse customer only website. To view, click here.
I also want to mention an organizational announcement that we made last week. We have appointed John Ricciardelli (pronounced - Rich-a-deli) as our new vice president of customer experience and support services. John replaces Ken McNamara, who decided to leave Eclipse. He brings to our company 23 years of customer support and program management experience from Honeywell and Bell Helicopter-Textron, and will be responsible for enhancing the existing Eclipse 500 ownership experience. This includes aircraft delivery, pilot and maintenance training, Eclipse Service Center operations, and the delivery of JetComplete. John has an impressive track record with demonstrable results and I am confident he will improve our customer support organization while helping us achieve our long-term goal of setting a new standard for the aircraft ownership experience. I know John looks forward to getting to know all of you in the weeks and months ahead.
President and CEO