Monday, April 30, 2007

Four Events

The FAA's regulatory oversight of the Eclipse program has culminated into four significant events:

Provisional TC, the July 2006 Oshkosh Event -
Most would agree this was largely a ceremonial event of little significance other than to give the Administrator some high visibility in the General Aviation arena and perhaps Eclipse a milestone to trigger additional funding. A previous post made the case this award was likely initiated from the top down, an "Executive Type Certificate." We know what happened and when, we don't know who was pushing the buttons or why?

Full certification, September 30, 2006 - The grievance filed by engineers and test pilots first tasked to qualify the airplane (
www.eclipsecritic.net) puts a bit of a dark cloud over this award. Adjudication of the grievance is pending. Again we know the what and when, we don't know the who or the why this award was put on a no-fault path.

DayJet C of A's, March 31, 2007 - After the reported sacking of one team of FAA inspectors and replacing them with another (better described in the Git-R-Done post), three Certificates of Airworthiness were suddenly awarded allowing Eclipse to deliver the airplanes to the upstart charter operation and the company's biggest customer, DayJet. Hopefully, one day more specifics will be forthcoming especially as relates to an alleged written agreement between the FAA and the company to not further look under floorboards or open access panels. Also it would be nice to learn who and why anybody would encourage this transgression.

PC, April 26, 2007 - A source close to the activities in ABQ e-mailed the following after the PC was issued:

"I am confident now that the planes that rolled out in the last few days are safe."

"Eclipse got their PC today, and, while Eclipse still has a long way to go to be able to gear up production, I am confident that the airplanes being produced under PC will be satisfactory."

"FAA is still inspecting extensively, but the company DOES have significant plans in place to be able to pick up more and more responsibility from FAA."

"The ODAR Airworthiness Reps have been more or less stopped from doing most of the inspection work, and outside DARs and FAA ASI's are taking primary action right now, while the AR's are re-trained, and the company begins making the inspections at the proper points in the process."

End quotes.


This is good news for everyone. It may be an indication our civil aviation institution has not broken down and that we can all have faith in the airplanes we build and the airplanes we fly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

FIGHTING BACK

A grievance was filed 10/20/06 by an FAA engineering group against FAA management alleging award of the Eclipse Type Certificate "without allowing the aircraft certification engineers and flight test pilots to properly complete their assigned certification/safety responsibilities."

A copy of the document is available on the following website:

www.eclipsecritic.net

Keep in mind, this event happened six months ago and the circumstances surrounding the award of the TC are just coming out. There are similar allegation surrounding the inspection and the recent award of the C of A's for the three DayJet airplanes. It may take some time to learn if the circumstances as reported in the last post are factual.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


GIT- R-DONE

No it's not the voice of Larry The Cable Guy trolling for laughs, it's the voice of higher ups with offices at 800 Independence Ave, S.W., Washington, D.C., and it's not so funny. In fact it is quite serious.

Remember the Provisional Type Certificate Marion Blakey presented Vern at Oshkosh, the one where she proclaimed, "What I have in my hand is probably the most significant piece of paper in America today, a piece of paper that will truly change the face of aviation."

It was presented by Executive Order!

Looking back, nobody tried to keep it a secret, Vern admitted there were IOU's to the FAA. Recently though I have learned from one source, the piece of paper was an "Executive Type Certificate" another source called it a "V.I.P. Type Certificate" and while I am not sure what was written on the actual piece of paper, the point is, the award came from the top down.

According to what I have learned, the Administrator has the authority to make such an award though it is seldom used. Ok, it was a legal tactic and may have been needed to trigger the release of the $225 million in pre-IPO convertible debt funding arranged through UBS Investment Bank.

Who cares?

Sources say, the GIT-R-DONE policy remains in place. Washington has put pressure on the field offices to use whatever manpower necessary, work as much overtime as possible, delay requests to support other companies needing FAA support, do what it takes but finish the process in ABQ.

Look at some other key dates where the FAA was involved:

- Award of Type Certificate, September 30, 2006, end of 3Q.

- First customer delivery, December 30, 2006, end of year.

- Issuance of three C of A's to support Day Jet Deliveries, March 31, 2007, end of 1Q.

Are all of these end-of-term dates coincident?

Will the next end-of-term event be the PC, like perhaps by the end of this month? Sources say Washington has a finger in the PC pie as well.

Remember the C of A's for DayJet? Here is what was reported to me verbatim, except I have blanked a specific name and title:

".... the FAA ASI's Inspecting the planes were finding a large number of problems- mostly workmanship issues, when they were looking inside. After several delays, Washington sent in the (title blanked) of Aircraft Certification Service, (name blanked), to take over, and (name) kicked the FAA San Antonio MIDO ASI's out, and signed an agreement with Eclipse that the FAA ASI's would no longer look inside panels or floorboards."

Where is the pressure coming from, Vern's rich and powerful friends, the New Mexico congressional delegation, the governors office, a symbiotic relationship with the FAA to bolster their desire to add user fees?

The end of the story has yet to be written, but suffice to say, FAA's rank and file workers in all the ACO and MIDO offices across the country are aware of the situation and are not happy with Washington's involvement?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Eclipse Delivers 3 more

Date: Apr 20, 2007 7:27 PM

FYI...

Today, I spoke with an owner who took delivery this week of his Eclipse. Boy was he excited! I could barely get my questions in. But I did manage to find out these things from him that shed a lot of light on the status of the Eclipse program:

1. For his acceptance flight, they went up to FL410--no special arrangements needed because, according to him, the plane is RVSM approved and the Eclipse pilots all are. The RVSM issue is now resolved.

2. The GPS-based pseudo-DME works fine. The DME issue is now resolved.

3. They verified his plane beat spec for high speed cruise. It did 360 KTAS (I don't know what altitude that was at, but it was likely somewhere around FL350). Book for the his pre-aeromod plane at midweight at FL350 is 354 KTAS. The aerodynamic modifications will add about 15 knots to that.

4. He starts his training Monday morning. The first batch of pilot customers should have completed their training this week and another batch starts Monday.

5. He said there were three deliveries this week. Another is slated for delivery Monday, and there should be others delivered next week as well. He sounded very upbeat, and his enthusiasm seemed well-founded to me. The company still has some hurdles to overcome--the pitot problem obviously needs rapid resolution for instance. But his report suggests that the issues with the Eclipse are indeed getting ironed-out nicely, planes are indeed being delivered, the performance numbers are being met, and pilots are getting trained.

Ken Meyer

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

From WhyTech

EAC Bloggers,

Just recently happened across the EAC blog, and because I know some of the senior folks at E-clips, elected to read through all of the posts. I have been a GA pilot and aircraft owner for 40 years, and a private equity investor for the last 20 years.


Despite my connections at E-clips, I cannot offer compelling arguments against the bulk of the criticism posted here. In fact, many of these same ideas have occured to me as I did my own informal due diligence on the Company periodically over the last 8 years.

Occasionally, a company in deep trouble is able to pull back from the brink (usually as a result of a just-in-time financing, such as at FedEx in the early days) but this is rare.

Management appears to be engaging in a very troubling pattern of deception/misrepresentation going back almost to the inception of the Company. This is characteristic of what is called by some grandiose entrepreneur syndrome, something we see frequently to varing degrees in the private equity business.

While I wish the Company well, the currently available information suggests a less than happy outcome. In any event, this story has the ingredients for a best seller book 2-3 years from now.

Best,

WT

Grandisose:Psychiatry. having an exaggerated belief in one's importance, sometimes reaching delusional proportions, and occurring as a common symptom of mental illnesses, as manic disorder.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thoughtful Analysis from Two Readers.

First from flightcenter:

1) Honeywell has an excellent track record for predicting the size of new aircraft markets. They have very sophisticated models and access to lots of "insider" information, but most importantly, they have been consistently right in their predictions time and again, year after year. Ask around the industry if you want to validate this fact.

2) Both Cirrus and Diamond have proven their ability to manufacture large numbers of inexpensive aircraft at a profit. Look at the GAMA numbers. They will be able to take advantage of their high capacity production infrastructure to amortize some of their jet production costs. Their track record provides confidence that they are likely to meet their price targets.

3) Both Cirrus and Diamond have proven their ability to certify innovative aircraft and stay close to their schedules while doing it.

4) Both Cirrus and Diamond are building substantially simpler and easier to produce aircraft (and hence less costly aircraft) than Eclipse is building. Just a couple examples, they don't need to worry about pressurizing the airplane to 41,000 feet. They don't need to certify to RVSM standards. They don't need quick donning oxygen masks... The list goes on and on...

5) Both Cirrus and Diamond have built an extremely large and loyal customer base that is ready to step up and will tend to stick Cirrus and Diamond aircraft if given the choice. (By the way, so has Cessna).

6) Cirrus and Diamond customers are predominantly single engine piston customers and a single engine jet will be an easier transition for their customers hoping to step up. There are significant barriers to entry for customers wanting to step up from single engine piston aircraft. Getting and paying for insurance is going to be a major problem for the folks stepping up from smaller, lower performance aircraft. This will not be as big a problem for piston pilots stepping up to a lower performance, single engine personal jet.

7) We do know that Eclipse has been selling the E500 since May of 2000 when they started taking Platinum, Gold and Silver deposits. If we are to believe Ken, then they have taken deposits for 800 aircraft to individual owners. That is 7 years to secure 800 orders. Do the math and extrapolate how many individual orders you would expect once the aircraft is being delivered. If initial customer feedback was incredibly positive, you might expect the order rate to double once the airplane has been shipping for a while and leadtimes are reasonable...

8) We do know that the vast majority of Eclipse's orders come from the air taxi market. 2 years ago, Vern told me that his estimate of the percent of orders that were coming from the air taxi market was about 80%. At the time, there were about 500 orders from individuals. So that meant that about 2,000 of his orders were attributed to the air taxi market.

9) We do know that the air taxi market will only succeed if someone is willing to finance all those planes. The facts are that it has been extremely difficult for DayJet, Pogo and other air taxi companies to secure the financing for the aircraft they need. We do know that DayJet has recently secured financing on the order of $50M. Clearly not enough to buy thousands of airplanes.

10) We do know that the air taxi market will succeed only if customers love the service. Customers are not going to love a service where DayJet lands to pick up another customer while I’m on the plane waiting to get to my destination. I wouldn’t share a cab on the way home from the airport if the service was free. Why do you think no one car pools to work? You want to leave when you want to leave. The whole DayJet model of not committing to the customer when he’s going to be flying until the last possible moment, in order to aggregate other customers on to that flight, is not going to be a winner. Trust me.

11) We do know that the whole air taxi market concept was based on Vern’s promise of a direct operating cost of $0.52 per mile. (not $0.52 per passenger mile, but $0.52 per aircraft mile). The idea was, if air taxi companies could make 50% gross margin, and charge $1 per mile, there would be unlimited demand for air taxi service and huge profits. And you know what? They would have been right!


However, those projected costs are history. It is looking a lot more likely that air taxi services are going to need to charge closer to $6 per aircraft mile to make the profit needed for a sustainable business. This translates to much lower demand.

12) We do know that the Eclipse air taxi order book does not include a firm commitment to buy more than a few hundreds of aircraft. The rest are options, with very little deposit money backing them. The fact is, if the customers aren’t delighted, and the financiers aren’t willing to put up $4B (2,000 orders times $2M per airplane) to finance the air taxi companies, those options are going to be worthless paper to Eclipse.

So what does that mean?


Anyone who is building a business plan that requires the establishment of a large, high growth air taxi market for success, is building a house of cards.

Individual owners of piston class aircraft are going to flock to the Cirrus and Diamond personal jet products.

Many individual owners of turboprop and high performance twins will be natural Eclipse customers. They will have the experience and financial capability to move to an Eclipse. That gets back to the 365 new turboprop sales per year and the 2,400 used aircraft transactions per year that occur per year in the $500K to $4M price range. It is hard to imagine that more than 20 – 25% of those used aircraft transactions will be converted into new VLJ sales.

Bottom line, there is going to be a market for about 500 twin engine VLJs per year. The competitors in this market segment are: Adam, Cessna, Eclipse, Embraer, and Honda.

So what are the facts? We know that Cessna, Embraer are building their business plans based on assumptions that will allow them to be successful producing 100 – 150 aircraft per year. We know that Adam and Honda believe that they can have a profitable business with around 50 or 60 aircraft per year.

We know that the Eclipse breakeven point is about 750 aircraft per year.

Ok, so back to Stan’s original question - Who is ready to invest a few million in Eclipse?


From buckerfan:

Lets get back to the topic of Stan's post:

Can Eclipse pull off an ipo? I live in Europe but spent many years on Wall Street and am currently a director of several European and US technology businesses. I try to keep close to conditions is the ipo market. Late last fall one of my company's, involved in RFID (no, not Alien), took a very hard look at this. What did the street tell us:


1) need substantial revenue base (in typical "hi-tech" that might be annual revenues of $30 to 50 million, indicates the product has true customer traction)

2) need demonstrated real revenue growth over several years,

3) need decent and sustainable gross margins (indicates you have your manufacturing under control and that your product is not a low margin commodity, in hi tech that means minimum of 40 to 50%, I have no idea what that should look like for aero manuf)

4) need to have crossed the profitability line, ie have a quarter or two of true bottom line profit, or in an extreme case have a positive Ebitda,and

5) the revenue growth and cost control indicates that the level of profitability/ebitda is going to continue accelerating

6) need to have invested the time and money to be Sarbanes Oxley compliant, whch means the CEO, CFO and directors have absolute faith in the financial systems and are willing to sign off on the financial statements.

Eclipse looks to be very far away from almost any of these metrics. Remember deposits are not revenues they are deferred expenses.

Stan raises an interesting point in suggesting the pink sheet market, but I imagine that the directors of this company would have their sights much higher than that.

Anyway, for what its worth those are my insights, would love to hear from those of your who are closer to the aero industry than hi tech.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The IPO

After the Provisional TC last summer, Eclipse reported:

"The company is poised to move from aircraft development to production with $225 million in pre-IPO convertible debt funding arranged through UBS Investment Bank."

Nine months later, this company can hardly be considered to be in a production mode. Rather than financing production, UBS's $225m is more likely funding airplane re-engineering, airplane re-certification, and internal system re-organization so that the company can obtain their Production Certificate.

Last July, the company was forecasting the delivery of 50 units by the end of the year, 500 in 2007. If cash flow projections were based on these numbers, imagine the red ink that must be flowing down in Albuquerque. IMHO, Vern will need to go to the well for more funding to support the production build up.

Can he find another $225m in pre-IPO convertible debt or will he opt for the IPO?

Let's look at some related facts:

- A few weeks ago when Eclipse was recruiting in Wichita, their newspaper ad stated the company was offering employee stock options.

- April 10, in a comment against a previous post, an ex-employee stated, "When I first started at Eclipse I was told my 300 or so shares would be worth 150K to 350K at IPO depending on whose who believed, when I left I believed it would be worth around negative $8,000, the amount I would have spent to purchase my shares, so the answer to the question is I bought zero shares. "

- In spite of one missed goal after another the Eclipse BOD has remained publicly unconcerned with the stumbles the company has incurred.

- The Eclipse BOD has remained publicly quiet when the company called for the 60% progress payment on far more delivery positions than what can reasonably be expected to deliver. This could conceivably leave the board exposed to future litigation should deliveries fail to materialize and the hapless position holders lose their deposits.


Somebody has something up their sleeve to keep this company afloat. I would bet they are going to roll the dice on an IPO and my guess is it will come sooner rather than later.

Some readers will argue an IPO is not viable. The financials will not hold up and the institutional investors will shy away from this one. Others argue, the company will not get through the due diligence phase.

If the company is cutting back on color copies and asking employees to curtail their consumption of soda, funds must be getting a little tight. Something will have to happen fairly soon. Perhaps they will look to the penny stock market where due diligence falls on the shoulders of the individual investors.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


happy birthday

Today is the blog's first anniversary.

Inspiration for this blog came after reading Richard Aboulafia's March 2006 treatise that debunked the major underpinning for the Eclipse business plan, viability of the Eclipse in an air taxi role.

About the same time, I was having a casual conversation with a senior VP from a major general aviation company; Eclipse entered the conversation. This individual expressed genuine cynicism and almost anger at the NAA for awarding the Collier trophy to a start-up company which had yet to succeed at anything. During our conversation, I realized because of his position, this guy could not speak out, his company policy would not allow it. After days of considering the situation, I reached the conclusion, there was nothing stopping me from sharing my views...the blog was born.

The first post covered four topics which encompassed everything I ever intended to say about the program.

The first point was to build a case for my claim the company would not meet their empty weight target of 3,390 lbs and therefore not meet the guaranteed range estimate. I predicted an empty weight of 3,700 lbs that would result in NBAA range closer to 800 nm with four on board. I'd still put money on those numbers for the "A" model. The "B" model might have a bit more range since Eclipse has boosted the maximum takeoff weight but the company will struggle to keep the empty weight below 3,700 lbs.

The second point was to expose the fallacy of friction stir welding. This was a cleverly conceived notion whereby Eclipse would use a new and enabling technology that would allow the company to produce airplanes at a rate unprecedented in the industry. In the course of a year, this topic has been discussed many times and through education, few believe Vern's parlor trick is anything more than a parlor trick.

The third topic covered was Vern's ability to use other peoples money to fund his dream. A year ago the blog categorically stated the investors could not possibly see a return from profits derived by delivering airplanes. They were not the only ones with financial exposure. Vendors were conned into funding development costs and assuming risks as well. This year we add to the list, the initial customers who are unsecured lenders and are at even greater risk of taking a bath in this program.

Lastly, the blog questioned why, if the company was sitting on 2,000 orders was it so actively engaged in so much promotion and self-promotion? While the question remains today, more and more, the answer is becoming clearer and clearer, the 2,000+ orders are probably a myth.

A couple of weeks after the first post, I got to thinking about all the claims Eclipse and the wannbe air taxi companies were making regarding their ability to provide point-to-point air charter at the cost of a full fare coach ticket and a fifty-cents per mile direct operating cost. This was pure BS and needed to be corrected. I resurrected my 40 year old format to determine airplane cost of operation, generated new numbers for the Eclipse and published the second post. And so it went, there was always something more to write about. The year seen a total of 94 posts and several thousand comments.

How do you promote a blog? Thousands of new ones are put up every day, most will never see a hit. I started by sending links to Richard Aboulafia (The Teal Group), Rich Karlgaard (Forbes Magazine), Capt. Zoom and any one else writing on the Eclipse. The responses varied, Aboulafia said I was doing "God's work." Karlgaard said, "always looking for the dark side, eh Stan?" After suggesting to Capt Zoom that he dig deeper into the Eclipse program, he said I was questioning his integrity, threatening him and his family, and he was going to file a police report and a lawsuit and...well, that's just Capt. Zoom.

Eventually, the blog gained traction. One person tells two, those tell two others and growth becomes exponential. There is no counter on the site and I don't care what the numbers might be. If only two or three dozen are reading the blog, that's OK with me.

Having said that, the numbers may be quite high. Last fall, if you were to google 'eclipse aviation' the blog would show up on google's page 34. Today, it has moved up to page 1, item 3, only behind the Eclipse home page and the wikipedia listing.

As the numbers of readers increased, the number of comments increased and this has turned out to be the best part of the blog. The collective insights, knowledge and wisdom of others have all contributed to a better understanding of the Eclipse program. Someone noted that for a blog, this one had a high signal to noise ratio. Couldn't agree more.

The intent of the blog has always been to be informative and entertaining. Today I would add a third point, thought provoking. In the past few months supporters for the Eclipse program have weighed in. Though in the minority, they have their views, make their points and don't back down. The debate is healthy for both sides of the issue, causing everyone to to re-think their positions.

What's in the future for the blog? Who knows. What is store for Eclipse? Who knows.

Several months ago, I declared Eclipse to be a failed program that just hasn't failed yet. Nothing has happened that would change my mind. Nearly every event scheduled and unscheduled is costing the company money. Delays, mod programs, re-engineering, re-testing, re-certification even aircraft deliveries add to the flow of red ink.

The Eclipse goal is to crank up the production line and deliver hundreds of airplanes. Many customers are holding purchase contracts for airplanes near a $1m price when Eclipse itself acknowledges the selling price should be $1.5-1.8m; some believe $2m would be even more realistic. The more they build the more they will lose.

Slow the production line down and fixed costs eat up cash reserves. Tap into investment capital and it will only prolong the inevitable. If you are going to be in the manufacturing business, you must sell your product for more than it costs to build or you can't stay in business. Accounting 101.

My prediction is the airplane will be around for a lot of years but the company will need to be restructured and reorganized under sound management principles. When this happens, the blog will disappear. Meanwhile keep checking in, there will be lots of lively discussions ahead.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Two Mid-April Messages from Vern

Dear Customers:


March was a very busy month at Eclipse. I want to wrap up the month with a quick update on our recent progress, and the work that lies ahead over the coming weeks.

The quarter ended with delivery of three aircraft to DayJet at our headquarters in Albuquerque on March 31st. It was a great day for the Eclipse and DayJet teams, and DayJet is excited to begin using these aircraft to kick off their pilot training program. There has been some media confusion about the Certificate of Airworthiness status of the delivered aircraft. I want to clear up any lingering questions and let you know that as is consistent with FAA regulations, all three aircraft had been granted a Certificate of Airworthiness prior to delivery. No aircraft can be delivered to a customer without first achieving this milestone.

We made one other delivery to a private owner in the first quarter, bringing our number of aircraft delivered in the first quarter to four and the total Eclipse 500's delivered to five. While this is shy of our goal, manufacturing and inspection momentum is growing and we are confident that it will continue to accelerate in Q2.

There are now seven additional aircraft in the pre-delivery phase that are either in the FAA inspection process or will soon be presented to the FAA for inspection. We are also making great progress toward our Production Certificate. We completed the FAA District Office audit in February and submitted our formal response plan. I expect to have good news in this area shortly.

We also recently released a draft version of Section 5 of the AFM. Many Eclipse 500 customers had asked for some preliminary data so that you could familiarize yourselves with the latest performance data. The numbers were derived from actual flight testing in a final configuration aircraft with the correct Avio NG weight. Although the numbers are still subject to change, they demonstrate that we are meeting, or exceeding, the guaranteed performance of the Eclipse 500.

We continue to work towards improving this data through further testing of the aircraft with the complete performance improvement package. We expect to have more updates for you in May. Working closely with our new partners, we continue to make great progress with Avio NG, and remain on schedule for completion this summer. The Avio NG test bed has begun utilizing both production configuration hardware and software to validate functionality and systems integration. The system is performing well.

At the beginning of March, we announced that Eclipse and United Airlines have mutually agreed to terminate our pilot training program partnership. We believe we will have major news announcing a new training partner very shortly. In the meantime, we can train all of our early delivery customers in their aircraft and in Albuquerque before receiving the first of six simulators later this year. Our training organization began training the first customer for his type rating this week and we already have type rated 10 Eclipse company pilots.

Lastly, I hope that you are seeing and feeling our strong commitment to provide more frequent and transparent communications on all aspects of our progress. I have to admit that the recent revelations from Cessna about only delivering one of their new Mustangs since its FAA TC has provided me with some perspective, and, if just for a brief moment, some solace. It reinforces to me that even experienced companies like Cessna are not immune to problems when bringing a new product to market. Here is an 80-year-old airplane company with arguably well-established production processes encountering issues with suppliers and they went five months without saying a word about any problems. At least with Eclipse you know what is going on in the production and development process, both good and bad. With this in mind, your feedback is always welcome and appreciated. I look forward to continuing to update you regularly on the successes and challenges we encounter along the way to bringing you an exceptional product.

Sincerely,

Vern Raburn
President and CEO



Dear Customers,

As I promised last November, Eclipse is committed to proactively providing you with detailed information about technical issues that affect the Eclipse 500 fleet. The documents we are using to keep you informed about this type of development are called Customer Technical Communications (CTCs). A CTC is not a Service Bulletin or a document that a mechanic or technician can use for servicing your aircraft. It is an Eclipse form of customer communication that our engineering team initially writes to explain a technical issue found either in flight test, production or operations.

So far, we have emailed you four of these documents to inform you about technical issues we have discovered, and planned program changes that will have an effect on Eclipse 500 maintenance or operations.

Our best case scenario is that at the time we communicate any Eclipse 500 issue, we are also in a position to include specific recovery plans. However, you have told us that your preference is that we get you in the loop as quickly as possible, even if our resolution path is not immediately clear. So our initial communication, in the form of a CTC, may not always outline an immediate solution to the issue.

The CTC found at http://customers.eclipseaviation.com/CTC_Pitot-AOAProbe_040907.pdf announces an issue with the pitot and angle of attack probe system on the Eclipse 500. This issue is temporarily limiting flight operations to Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) without an Eclipse company pilot or Eclipse trained mentor pilot on board. The Eclipse 500 can still file an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan, but cannot fly in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC).

While we are not able to outline our resolution at this time, I promise to update you on the progress of our fix within the next two weeks. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Vern Raburn
President and CEO

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Question

From the Eclipse Owners Board:

April 06, 2007, 02:05:57 PM

We are bumping forward. Got word today that our plane should be "delivered" next week. But there still is no training for owners, other than DayJet, I guess.

We were there this week and there were a couple of people in type training classes, but we were told mentor pilots are next to be trained. We have not been scheduled yet.

No word on how one can take delivery on an aircraft when there is no one type rated to fly the plane?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

From the poetic pen of black tulip

The enduring faith of Eclipse Aircraft supporters warrants more examination. If the face of multiple setbacks and a shadowy future, the faithful labor on - arduous workers toiling in the vineyard of aviation.


Is this a business, a religion or a cult? Don't dismiss the thought, as it could have significant financial implications. Religious organizations don't pay taxes. When the income comes rolling in - four hundred planes this year, a thousand next - then profits will eventually offset the massive billion-dollar tax loss carryforward.

Why pay taxes when the Eclipse story has all the makings of a religious organization - belief in the supernatural, an enduring faith in the face of adversity, the ability to weather persecution, a willingness to proselytize the infidels and messianic belief that 'depositor' equals 'owner.' Many are willing to forego the pleasures of earth (owning a nice airplane now) on the promise of aviation nirvana... a little jet so sublime and sweet that will force the great unwashed to their unclad knees.

Father Vern should reorganize Eclipse as a religion, eliminating the corporate tax burden and making deposits and payments charitable deductions.

Thus the story of the church will be told in a new context: "How do you tell when it is midnight in the chancery? (read hangar) "When the big hand touches the little hand."

May we hear from the altar boys on the blog?

Black Tulip

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Mentoring

Several Eclipse position holders have expressed support for the mentoring program. For the less qualified and less confident, it is good insurance.

However, the way this mandatory 'baby sitter' program is structured, I would expect problems as the owner's desires conflict with the desires of the mentor.

To illustrate potential conflicts, I planned to write a fictional account of an owner who received his airplane late and now has to incorporate a mentor into his Aspen Christmas holiday plans. And of course, the only mentor available was that fellow up in New York, a retired trans-Atlantic airline pilot, fresh out of a divorce. And.....well you guys are going to have to make up your own happy or unhappy ending to that story.

Instead I am going to write about a true mentoring situation.

Henry and Louise Timken (owners, Timken Bearing) took delivery of Lear Jet 23-015 in 1965.
While Henry was chronologically senior to his wife, he was only VFR rated. Louise 56, was the captain and IFR rated. During training, Louise, uncomfortable with the power of the engines at 100% rpm's, declared that operationally, she would limit takeoff rpm's to 90% which really equated to about 75% of takeoff thrust with the CJ-610 turbojet engines.

After a couple of weeks of ground school and flight training (there was no flight simulator), they were ready to head home. With
Louise in the left seat, they taxied out to the runway. After a short hold for the clearance, it was on to the active. The engines spooled up, brake release and more rpm's until both engine were screaming like only those GE's do at 100%.

N88B accelerated quickly, V1, Vr, suck up the gear, clean up the flaps then Louise pulled the nose up into a steep 6,100 fpm climb, rolled into an equally steep turn headed towards Ohio. Her performance left those watching on the ramp speechless except for the guy who quietly muttered to himself, "holy shit." As for Henry and Louise, in 13 minutes she would be leveling off at FL 410 and pulling the power back, so as not to exceed the Mach .81 red line.

Henry and Louise flew that airplane a lot of years, logged over 2,300 jet hours. When the weather was bad or they were headed into higher density areas, they flew with Don Minter, their 'mentor pilot'. As they got older, I suspect Don flew with them more and more.

Today,
N88B is in the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, AZ. A deserved resting place for great airplane and a fitting tribute to the crew who flew it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Section 5 - Performance

Am traveling and don't have time to put up more, but here is a quick summary from Section 5, the draft performance section. All numbers @ ISA temperature and sea level unless noted otherwise:

Vs clean - 94 kts @ 5,995 lbs
Vs T/O - 83 kts @ 5,995 lbs
Vs Ldg - 71 kts @ 5,600 lbs

Vr @ 5,995 lbs - 91 kts
V50 @ 5,995 lbs - 103 kts

T/O distance @ 5,995 lbs - 2,342 ft (remember this is all engines)
Ldg over 50 ft @ 5,600 lbs - 2,788 ft

Enroute climb Vy = 174 kts, 2,604 fpm @ sea level & 5,995 lbs
Enroute climb Vy = 113 kts, 343 fpm @ 41,000 ft & 5,000 lbs

One eng climb Vse = 133 kts, 603 fpm @ sea level & 5,995 lbs
One eng climb Vse = 118 kts, 33 fpm @ 20,000 ft & 5,995 lbs

Climb to 41,000 ft, 32.7 min/302 lbs/139 nm @ 5,995 lbs
Climb to 35,000 ft, 21.8 min/234 lbs/87 nm @ 5,995 lbs
Climb to 30,000 ft,16.8 min/195 lbs/63 nm @ 5,995 lbs

Long range cruise @ 41,000 ft, 303 ktas/M .527/295 pph @ 5,000 lbs
Long range cruise @ 35,000 ft, 290 ktas/M .503/318 pph @ 5,000 lbs
Long range cruise @ 30,000 ft, 277 ktas/M .470/344 pph @ 5,000 lbs

High speed cruise @ 41,000 ft, 339 ktas/M .592/342 pph @ 5,000 lbs
High speed cruise @ 35,000 ft, 369 ktas/M .640/466 pph @ 5,000 lbs
High speed cruise @ 30,000 ft, 368 ktas/M .624/552 pph @ 5,000 lbs

NBAA range cruising 41,000 ft - 1,125 nm
NBAA range cruising 35,000 ft - 1,030 nm
NBAA range cruising 30,000 ft - 925 nm
NBAA range cruising 25,000 ft - 830 nm

Maximum demonstrated cross wind - 14 kts (not clear if landing only or also T.O.)

Note: The NBAA range calculations are based on a full load of fuel on the ramp. Since this section does not deal with empty weights or CG travel, there is no proof the airplane can carry the advertised payload of four and travel 1,125 nm, which is one of the guarantees in the purchase contract.

As I recall, the stall speed is above the guaranteed number in the contract. Either of these escapes could allow a buyer to declare Eclipse Aviation in default and demand return of the deposit. If I am wrong about this point, I am sure the Eclipse crowd will soon correct me and I will delete these statements.

Regular readers of this blog will be happy to know eclipseblogger provided a copy of the draft, thank you sir, thank you very much!