Monday, January 29, 2007

Guest Editorial - The Air Taxi Market

Gunner put a pencil to the paper and tried to make some sense regarding the Eclipse claim to the air taxi market. Here is his take:

The numbers for Eclipse Production simply do not compute. They continue to tout orders that are about 10 fold what Cessna states for the Mustang. (Dec 2006, "Flying").

How is this possible?
Ostensible Answer: The Air Taxi Market

But let's examine that just a bit. From Eclipse's own site, they claim an Op Cost Per Hour of $372 vs their number of $574 for the Mustang.

Lets adjust that a bit more fairly as follows:
- Conservatively subtract $36/hr from Mustang to render the insurance estimate equal.
- Conservatively subtract half of the $40/hr from Mustang for costs Eclipse claims will be attributed only to Mustang for AOG calls, "Flight Support", "Trending and Monitoring", "Rental Engine Liability" and "Enhanced Operators 'Web Site Functionality" (whatever that is).
- Add back the $27/hr Fuel Cost differential Eclipse claims to have locked in on the Not-Yet-Been-Implemented JetComplete program.

Suddenly the hourly cost comparisons are $399 vs $517

Now, lets rough out hard costs per seat mile (assuming full fuel and full passenger payload):
- 370 knots vs 340.
- 714 lbs full fuel load vs 800
- Average Passenger Weight with carry on (FAA 2005): 192 lbs

Bare Bones Costs per Seat Mile:
Eclipse: $.29
Cessna: $.36

So, where is this Air Taxi market that has flocked to a tiny, no baggage, no lav, startup jet company while refusing to give the time of day to a proven company with a more spacious, better suited AirTaxi Jet that is already in full production?

Surely, the op costs come into play, yes. But is this Air-Taxi-Industry-In-Waiting so price sensitive that an op cost jump from $.29 to $.36 would drive demand from 2,000+ Eclipse to Zero a couple dozen Mustangs?

I somehow don't think so. The smart players in this Burgeoning New Industry would bite the bullet and start flying at least a few hundred of those clunky old Mustangs just to gain market share before Carey Limousine enters the market with its couple thousand Eclipse.

I'm sorry, no matter how you do the math, there is simply no reason that Eclipse should have thousands of Air Taxi orders while Cessna claims 250 TOTAL orders.

Even if you take into account the $1MM price differential, it doesn't add up. Cessna has a track record for longevity, reliability and stability. All Eclipse has is Vern.

And people ask why nobody believes the Eclipse model.

Gunner

Friday, January 26, 2007


A German View

A German/Canadian reader provided the following translation to a recent aviation magazine article:

Today I found an interesting article from a renowned German aviation magazine "Pilot und Flugzeug (PuF)": http://www.pilotundflugzeug.de/news/ PuF calls it "The Phantom Jet from Albuquerque". In the article, PuF says that Eclipse claimed to have received certification last year but the certification was very limited. PuF calls this a marketing stunt with the help of the FAA.
Next, there were some restrictions lifted, but most importantly not the certification of the Avidyne "Avio". Therefore, you can now only jump from VOR to VOR. PuF calls this a marketing stunt with the help of the press.
PuF questions the first "delivery". Could the performance promises be kept? PuF is especially interested in the jet's weight. Therefore, PuF requested from Eclipse the AFM (or POH). PuF was told by Eclipse, that the AFM will not be made public and that only a few customers have seen it.
PuF states that in the 26-year history of the magazine, they have not ever encountered anything like this whereas a legally required document is not available for review.
PuF concludes that the status quo of the project obviously does not look good. Further changes on the jet's design can be expected which in the opinion of PuF is nor problem but the question must be asked if there is enough money available for all this. It is more problematic to undermine the credibility of the company with the above mentioned PR-tricks considering that customers have to pay for the project with "non-refundable" deposits says PuF.


Our translator added:

"Nothing new, but straight forward words."

I would disagree, unlike most quid pro quo journalists in this country who one day hope to gain advertising dollars or a test flight in the airplane, we have not seen much objective reporting. PuF has called a spade a spade, in this case, the Eclipse a phantom.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Upsets

The diagram was provided by eclipseblogger with the following explanation:

"Red line is the reduced Vmo = 275 for the "A" model. The "B" model will have a Vmo = 285 (black line boundary of the envelope). The blue line is for the "A" model performance, before the drag reduction aero-dynamics mods.

The chart was publicly posted already by Bob Broders so go ahead and do with it as you wish." End Quote.

Comments on the blog have been discussing Eclipse performance on the high end--high altitude and high speed, at least however fast the Eclipse can fly.

Frankly, I can't explain the shape of the blue line curve. One would expect the max speed below 30,000 ft, yet the speed keeps increasing up to FL 350 then rapidly falls off above 350. Then again, the engine is controlled by a computer which doesn't necessarily have to follow the laws of physics.

Of more interest is the left side of the curve, the slow speed. Since early in the program, Eclipse has promoted L-39 upset training as part of the curriculum, why? Is Eclipse just being more thorough than other manufacturers or is it a genuine concern? And is the real objective recovery from high altitude stalls.

At 41,000 ft, 312 kt TAS would translate to about 150 kt equivalent (indicated) air speed. The chart reflects numbers at 5,000 lbs and a clean stall speed of about 95 kts. This 55 kt spread is pretty narrow, and gets even more narrow when the aircraft banks for a turn (think accelerated stalls) or encounters turbulence. Operating at higher weights will reduce the spread as well.

Vern like to boast how safe and fool-proof they have made the Eclipse, there is nothing to brag about here. I can't think of any other business jet operating with this small of margin.

A company in Santa Fe provides upset training in an L-39, their website provides some insight into the thrill of a high altitude stall/upset: www.jetwarbird.com/upset.html

Sunday, January 14, 2007


HELP WANTED...
and careers that soar.
In Wichita, the message can be seen on billboards, heard on the radio and read in the newspaper.
Eclipse Job Fairs Jan 4 and 5 in Wichita and Independence, Kansas for experienced aircraft workers in multiple disciplines.
The ads tout the Eclipse 500 as the winner of the Collier, their 2,500 orders, and offer "excellent salaries with stock options."
Independence, Kansas you ask? Just a sleepy little Kansas town a hundred or so miles S.E. of Wichita with a population of about 10,000. Well it does have another thing going for it. Cessna will produce the Mustang at their Independence facility with the effort led by Ron Holter, who used to head up manufacturing at Eclipse.
Eclipse has a problem in recruiting new employees. The company has experienced a fair amount of turnover and those who have left are now working at other aerospace companies across the country. I don't think many of the Eclipse alumni are encouraging others to move to Albuquerque.
The "Hot Jobs" posting on the Eclipse web site is revealing. While many of the jobs are required to support eventual production increases, some are key slots vacant because somebody left, like the opening for the Manager of Stress Analysis, or the Lead Performance Engineer, or the Lead Weights Engineer. Would sure like to interview the individuals who previously held these positions.
Another revealing vacancy is for the Lead, Flight Quality. This person needs "Experience performing airworthiness inspections and issuing FAA standard airworthiness certificates on behalf of the FAA." It is hard to imagine the FAA granting the Production Certificate with this key slot open.
If you are going to build 500 aircraft per year, it will take a lot of deck hands. Not just warm bodies but people who know what they are doing. Yet even if the company were fully staffed, it is going to take some time to get the internal systems working right and everyone working as a team.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007







Progress






Eclipseblogger e-mailed three images from the customer forum showing the airplanes in queue on the production line.


Meanwhile, lloyd was a recent visitor to Eclipse and offered his observations to the readers of this blog:


Micah was kind enough to take Shari and me on a tour of the factory today. There is a lot of activity going on. It's a busy place, and things are really cranking up now. We met many enthusiastic employees, proud of their work and happy to see us coming through, like this nice guy who showed us how they put fuselage segments together:




We saw many planes in production. They're going to need more floor space pretty soon:




We watched S/N 10 undergoing its first engine runup test on the ramp, and here's the lineup of airplanes just about ready for that big step (S/N 12 in the foreground):




Work continues on the test planes--undergoing upgrade to the new tip tanks, new bullet and other aerodynamic modifications that will turn A models in B's. The new tip tanks look nice!




All in all, a great afternoon and indeed a very reassuring visit.




Thanks Micah!



Thanks to both lloyd and eb for the update. While not wanting to detract from what has been accomplished in ABQ, they are a long ways from delivering 499 more airplanes in the remaining 355 days of '07.