Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 Year in Review – Eclipse Top 10 List

10. Eclipse secured their production certificate.
9. Eclipse’s largest customer, DayJet, launched operations and took delivery of 23 aircraft. Several other air taxi companies launched Eclipse 500 aircraft operations in 2007. Several VLJ management companies announced Eclipse 500 aircraft management programs, including JetAviva.

8. Eclipse transitioned to a new training program which is allowing Eclipse owners to successfully secure their type ratings in the Eclipse. Additional training capacity is coming on line to match the increased production capacity.

7. Eclipse secured their Part 145 repair station approval and opened their first remote service center in Gainesville, FL. Eclipse is delivering outstanding customer support and fast turnaround time for aircraft needing service.

6. Eclipse 500 aircraft performance modifications have been certified. Production cut in occurred with serial #39. The performance modifications deliver on the company’s commitments for the aircraft’s performance guarantees.

5. Eclipse certified and cut into production numerous improvements to the aircraft, including the design of the pitot-static system and the windshields, resulting in substantial benefits for its customers, including RVSM and improved service maintenance requirements.

4. Eclipse has successfully certified Avio NG. Production cut in occurred on serial #105. Avio NG hardware platform is now in place and ready to support future software releases with additional functionality. Probably most importantly, Eclipse has demonstrated the ability to certify complex avionics systems. This is a unique and significant differentiator for Eclipse.

3. Eclipse has successfully raised the financing required to fund the accomplishments listed above.

2. Eclipse has delivered somewhere between 90 and 100 aircraft in the first year of production. This is the fastest production ramp for the first year of production for a new production twin turbofan aircraft, ever. Eclipse will deliver more than 20 aircraft in December, hitting their one a day targets.

1. Now that Eclipse has established a stable production platform, put the aircraft’s major design changes behind them, they can focus on ramping production, reducing costs and transitioning to profitability in 2008.

Goin against the grain of the blog but always welcome, a guest review from Minority Report.

And an opposing view from airtaximan:

Minority report revisited, rose colored glasses removed for clarity:

10. Eclipse secured their production certificate (originally scheduled for 2004, rescheduled, rescheduled and then rescheduled for 2006).

9. Eclipse’s largest customer, DayJet, launched operations and took delivery of 23 aircraft. Several other air taxi companies launched Eclipse 500 aircraft operations in 2007. Several VLJ management companies announced Eclipse 500 aircraft management programs, including JetAviva. (Dayjet was initially supposed to begin operations in 2004, then revised its plans to have 30 E-500 on line in 2007, and now enjoys around ½ hour per plane per day in revenue flights, the other VLJ services have done a few flights a piece. Dayjet revealed to have more than half the eclipse orderbook, and Aviace, a oft touted European air taxi company 112 unit order evaporated)

8. Eclipse transitioned to a new training program which is allowing Eclipse owners to successfully secure their type ratings in the Eclipse. Additional training capacity is coming on line to match the increased production capacity. (So they replace United a world class company, and have overcome a very high training failure rate for a plane that is supposed to be very easy to fly. Also all promises of having full motion simulators have been missed, while the wait for training grows.)

7. Eclipse secured their Part 145 repair station approval and opened their first remote service center in Gainesville, FL. Eclipse is delivering outstanding customer support and fast turnaround time for aircraft needing service. (do we know this? They likely planned for hundreds of planes on line as per their own statements, and maintaining a few dozen planes is now seen as an accomplishment.. kinda sad.)

6. Eclipse 500 aircraft performance modifications have been certified. Production cut in occurred with serial #39. The performance modifications deliver on the company’s commitments for the aircraft’s performance guarantees. (again, a day late and a dollar short… this was missed after spending over $1B and 10 years – shameful to be boasting about cleaning up or finishing a design at this point, especially after 38 planes that are "deficient" have been delivered)

5. Eclipse certified and cut into production numerous improvements to the aircraft, including the design of the pitot-static system and the windshields, resulting in substantial benefits for its customers, including RVSM and improved service maintenance requirements. (Improvements? They are fixes of defects in design and manufacture – why not boast about improving the shoddy paint? Why not include the non functional avionics?)

4. Eclipse has successfully certified Avio NG. Production cut in occurred on serial #105. Avio NG hardware platform is now in place and ready to support future software releases with additional functionality. Probably most importantly, Eclipse has demonstrated the ability to certify complex avionics systems. This is a unique and significant differentiator for Eclipse. (after 10 years they dump Avidyne and this is called an accomplishment? Aviong is still unfinished, and from what we have seen, it probably has not a lot more functionality at this point than Avio-Avidyne… missed it by how much, again? What does an airframer achieve through the capability to certify avionics, from a customers perspective?

3. Eclipse has successfully raised the financing required to fund the accomplishments listed above. (So true –an ungodly amount of time and money –truly a remarkable feat. Probably their biggest accomplishment. Makes for a tough business case.)

2. Eclipse has delivered somewhere between 90 and 100 aircraft in the first year of production. This is the fastest production ramp for the first year of production for a new production twin turbofan aircraft, ever. Eclipse will deliver more than 20 aircraft in December, hitting their one a day targets. (Correction, second year of production – most of these planes were in fact started in early to mid 2006. Also, stated delivery goals for 2006 was in the hundreds, and 2007 was in the 1-2 planes per day range. This probably as much as anything else shows how unrealistic the company is in their ability to assess execution risk. The intial delivery date was 1004, revised again and again and again)

1. Now that Eclipse has established a stable production platform, put the aircraft’s major design changes behind them, they can focus on ramping production, reducing costs and transitioning to profitability in 2008. (Ramping up production does not equate to profitability… and the market and order book begs the question “Why ramp up to 2 or 3 per day anyway?)

Sunday, December 23, 2007


The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp,
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tiedowns with care,
In hopes that come morning, they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots,
With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.
I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter,
I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick,
I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick".
I ran to the panel to turn up the lights,
The better to welcome this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial,
"St. Nicholas One, turnin' left onto final."
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came,
As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
"Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!
On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?

While controllers were sittin', and scratchin' their head,
They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread,
The message they left was both urgent and dour:
"When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking,
Then I heard "Left at Charlie," and "Taxi to parking."
He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh
And stopped on the ramp with a "Ho, ho-ho-ho..."

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.
His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost
And his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale.
His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,
His boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red,
And he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low-lead."
He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump,
I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief,
Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,
These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.
He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear,
Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk,
He called up the tower for clearance and squawk.
"Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction,
Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion"

He sped down the runway, the best of the best, "
Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west."
Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed thru the night,
"Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight."

Merry Xmas to all. ====== WhyTech

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eclipse Aviation Achieves FAA Certification of Avio NG

Next-generation system provides unmatched functionality

December 20, 2007

ALBUQUERQUE, NM

Eclipse Aviation, manufacturer of the world’s first very light jet (VLJ), today announced that it has received certification of Avio NG from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Avio NG Total Aircraft Integration™ system, exclusive to the Eclipse 500 VLJ, provides centralized control of virtually all Eclipse 500 systems and avionics functions. Avio NG significantly reduces pilot workload by simplifying tasks, generating useful information and acting as a virtual copilot.

Certification of Avio NG marks the completion of an intensive effort to develop and certify a significantly improved Electronic Flight Information System (EFIS) and Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) functionality for the Eclipse 500. This milestone was achieved in a short ten months following the company’s announcement that it would replace the equipment supplied by Avidyne, and build and certify the improved Avio NG system. As the lead integrator, Eclipse Aviation certified Avio NG with the support of its world-class partners, including Innovative Solutions & Support, Inc. (IS&S), Honeywell, Garmin International and PS Engineering, Inc.

“Certifying Avio NG marks one of our greatest accomplishments,” said Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation. “Avio NG now provides the seamless, safe, and reliable jet operating experience we always envisioned for our customers. It sets a new standard for single-pilot aircraft operations.”

With Avio NG installed, Eclipse 500 customers receive higher primary flight display (PFD) and multi-function display (MFD) resolution, enhanced user interface features, four-color weather radar and greater overall systems reliability. Avio NG also provides increased functionality for optional equipment, including a third AHRS, Skywatch HP, Class B TAWS, DME, ADF and a Mode S enhanced transponder with diversity capability. As additional Avio NG functionality is certified in early 2008, Eclipse 500 customers will be able to add these features through simple software updates.

Avio NG is designed to align with the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) integrated plan. Avio NG equips the Eclipse 500 for the future by providing an architecture platform that incorporates the migration of technology envisioned with NextGen. Since Avio NG is designed with NextGen in mind, all of the NextGen technology solutions can be incorporated at little or no cost to Eclipse 500 owners.

Aircraft 105, the first production Eclipse 500 equipped with Avio NG, has just received its certificate of airworthiness and will be delivered to its owner in the coming weeks. Eclipse will ensure a homogenous Eclipse 500 fleet by modifying all in-service Eclipse 500s with Avio NG by the end of 2008, at the company’s expense.

About Avio NG

Designed by Eclipse Aviation exclusively for the Eclipse 500, Avio NG provides Total Aircraft Integration through integral, redundant computer systems and advanced data and power distribution systems. Avio NG applies integration technology to the entire aircraft, including avionics, engine operation, fuel system, flaps, landing gear, cabin pressure and temperature. The cockpit features two PFDs and one MFD, which are controlled by selection keys and knobs on the displays or by a keyboard at the pilot position. The PFD and MFD provide the pilot with high-resolution display of all flight parameters, engine and system performance data, and total system control.

Thanks to EO387, a long time contributor to the blog for the heads up on this one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

From Eclipse to their customers:

Three weeks ago, we announced a special offer to lock in your standard aircraft price at $1.25M USD in exchange for $625,000 in escrow by December 14th. The offer required participation from enough customers for us to raise a minimum of $30M USD before we could access the funds.

I am very pleased to report that we have reached our goal of $30M. At this point, and in accordance with the Escrow Agreement, Eclipse will have the option to draw upon these funds as needed. For those of you who participated, you will receive executed agreements to confirm your new price by December 21, 2007.

If you have questions about your transaction please contact Michael Gelpi at..........

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vern's no Bill Lear...

But there are some similarities.

Bill kept his Collier Trophy on his desk, won not for the Lear Jet, but rather his development of an autopilot in late 40's. Never heard anyone say it wasn't well deserved.

Vern didn't actually win one. The NAA awarded the 2005 Collier to the company. Opinions vary as to whether the Eclipse award was deserved.

In conceiving their airplanes, both faced a similar challenge...the airplanes would be small...weight and space would be major considerations. Existing off-the-shelf components would not be an option for many of the systems.


The gyros are a good example. Bill's options were the big, expensive Sperry's favored by the airlines or vacuum powered gyros in common use in general aviation though not appropriate for a jet. The Sperry's would not fit into the nose compartment nor did Bill want to give up any of the generous 32 cu ft of baggage space in the back of the Lear so his was an easy choice, build his own.

For most that would be an impossible task, for Bill it was a walk in the park. After all, he had just sold his interest in Lear-Siegler so that he could use the money to launch the Lear Jet. He knew top flite avionics engineers who could design a new generation of gyros and companies that could produce precision parts. Bill had another secret weapon. He was very familiar with all of the high grade airborne equipment sold to the U.S. military and knew a supplier that had tons of surplus components gathering dust in a warehouse.

With these resources, Bill and his able staff could design equipment specifically for the needs of the airplane. New vertical and directional gyros were developed that would easily fit in the sleek nose compartment of the Model 23. The flux valves mounted in the tip tank tail section were freshly reconditioned from military surplus.

The airplane was six months away from first flight when one of the avionics engineers was quoted in the company newsletter, "Remember these names because the Directisyn and Vertisyn are slated to set new standards in the industry" (even 45 years ago, one needed a catchy name for advanced products).


The airplane needed numerous components specific to the design, Bill and his staff worked them one at a time. Electric nose wheel steering, anti-skid brakes, dual yaw dampers and static inverters were some of the early accomplishments. Then just a couple of months before the scheduled first flight, Bill realized his cruciform tail design needed to be converted to a T-tail, more electro-mechanical devices would be needed. A twin servo powered actuator would be required to trim the horizontal stabilizer and dual stick shakers/pushers would be needed to avoid the deep stall problem associated with T-tail aircraft.

Again from the employee newsletter, "...on March 1, an electronic parts manufacturer mailed out information on a new component. An order was placed through regular channels, the component was delivered, the circuit was redesigned to use the advanced component design and on March 15, Dick Kraus reported the static inverter giving top performance with the new component. Also in final form is the prototype sheet metal package for the inverter.

It looks as if, "Progress is our most important product" too!"

By the time the airplane took to the air for the first time, all of the systems were in place and operational with the exception of the autopilot which was not completed until perhaps unit 30 was delivered. Without an autopilot in the thinner air, one learned to trim carefully and fly with your finger tips.

At an early stage, Bill opened a manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids and named it Jet Electronics Technology ( J.E.T.) to produce these components. It was a great accomplishment and sounds idyllic but there were problems, well really one problem, RELIABILITY. The gyros had a high failure rate. The static inverters had a high failure rate. The magnetic clutch in the servos had a high failure rate. Fuel pumps (a vendor item) had a high failure rate. And so on.

Eventually, the bugs got worked out and as I recall, only one early accident was attributed to a component failure. An inop fuel pump known to the pilot before takeoff resulted in an uncontrollable fuel imbalance and the pilot augered in, no figure of speech here (N690L, Orlando, 11-29-67). But the reliability problems tarnished the reputation of the company and led to a slow down in sales which forced Bill to sell the company to Charlie Gates.

Thirty some years later along comes Vern Raburn with a plan to build a twin jet smaller and lighter than anything else in the industry. Unlike Bill Lear who had a background in electro-mechanical components, Vern's background was in computers. His 21st century solution to minimizing system requirements is to control everything with centralized computer systems. And unlike Bill Lear who had his sleeves rolled up and was immersed in every aspect of problem solving, Vern has farmed out his solution to eight different companies with a goal of building a cohesive centralized system.

If we are to believe reports coming from Eclipse, AVIO NG (21st century catchy name) is scheduled for certification within days. Deliveries of AVIO NG are scheduled to start at unit 105. The next chapter has yet to be written.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


EASA Certification

In early November I had written a draft post to discuss EASA certification for the Eclipse. EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) is made up of over 30 member countries and can best be described as Europe's equivalent to the FAA.

While it is possible, in some countries under some circumstances, to operate aircraft under U.S. registration, for some period of time, EASA certification is really mandatory if any manufacturer intends to have a presence in Europe.

In the latest
Mike Press Newsletter, he touted the fact - "Demand in Europe with the strong Euro continues to pick up and half the sales are now to European buyers."

In Vern's late November letter to the Owners-In-Waiting, Vern predicted EASA certification 2Q '08.

The points I wanted to make in the November draft were but four:

1) Eclipse can't even start the EASA certification until the airplane is completed including Avio NG and FIKI. If the company gets these two boxes checked off by the end of 1Q, as Vern predicts, it will be the first time the company has achieved a published milestone.

The company (Vern) has said, it is only a matter of finding natural ice and demonstrating the functionality of the anti/de-icing equipment.


Not so fast...the airplane could need additional hardware (boots on the vertical?) or modifications to systems to keep the inboard wing leading edge de-iced. This is not a slam dunk, especially for an airplane out-of-the-box that doesn't have an abundance of excess of bleed air or electrical capacity to deal with any further demands.

2) The EASA authorities will go thru the existing documentation and the airplane with a fine tooth comb. While there might be some level of cooperation with the FAA, it has been my experience that there also exists a professional rivalry between the FAA and EASA technical staffs. And there is nothing more the Europeans like to find than something the FAA may have missed. The days of Americans always being right are long gone.

3) Eclipse by their own admission did not understand what it took to get an airplane certified...did not understand what it took to earn a production certificate. Now they want the world is to believe they have their arms around EASA certification and it will be just another walk in the park.

4) One can believe or not believe there was political influence used to expedite the TC and PC. Whatever levers may have been pulled in Washington won't be available in Europe.

Now comes carlos who yesterday offered the following:

Hello everyone:

I came across this thing published in the summer by easa:

The Eclipse 500 has an unusual design feature with respect to engine control. The engines FADEC’s are electrically powered by the aircraft electrical system instead of a dedicated and independent electrical source on each engine. This means that in case of total electrical failure the engines will maintain the power setting that was present at the moment of the failure. This also leads to the loss of shut-off capability.

DISCUSSION

Historically, engine control did not rely on electrical power from the aircraft’s electrical system. As it is proposed now, the Eclipse 500 will deviate from this established standard which affects the redundancy in engine control related to power supply. The Eclipse 500 design is, with regard to the failure of generated electrical power and viewed in combination with the subsequent condition, not comparable to existing designs (compared to an aircraft with totally independent, not time limited, engine control, mechanical shut-off means and independent, sometimes pneumatic, standby instruments).

With virtually the same reliability of two electrical generators as on conventional designs, the Eclipse 500 has, in contrast to conventional designs, no dedicated and independent FADEC power supply. The aircraft is thus considered lost after 30 minutes of being on battery power, because:

a. Engine control is lost
b. Engine shut-off capability is lost
c. All instruments are lost

The 30-minute requirement is considered to be applicable to a conventional design and not to a design where these three services are totally dependant on ship’s electrical power. Also it is not considered reasonably possible to safely land the aircraft within 30 minutes from 41000 ft on battery supply, taking into account the time needed to perform the failure procedure, general pilot capability, lost services and ATC environment. Thirty minutes after loss of generated electrical power the availability of the means to shut off the fuel supply is not assured.

This system design is not in compliance with 23.995(a) where a shut-off means is required regardless of failure probability of other systems or time constraints. Furthermore, the fail fixed failure mode of the FADEC in this condition is useless if it is not possible to control and shut down the engine after landing. Therefore there should be a new required standard being defined for an aircraft with a novel design like the Eclipse 500 in order to make sure that the safety level is not reduced. Alternatively, Eclipse Aviation could opt for a design that is similar to existing designs (time unlimited and dedicated FADEC power supply and a mechanical fuel shut-off means).

SPECIAL CONDITION

Eclipse Aviation is required to show that the cited requirements with regard to electrical power supply to the engine controls are complied with and that the redundancy and isolation standards are at least equal to those developed in the past based on these requirements.

Furthermore, Eclipse Aviation must ensure that the essential services(excluding engines), that remain available, allow for flight in IMC for a minimum of 30 minutes and in VMC for a subsequent minimum of 30 minutes more.

If the aircraft is going to be operated commercially, it must be shown that destination and alternate distances are compatible with the provided capacity of emergency electrical power with regard to engine, systems and instrument availability.

Then carlos asked the dynamite questions:

"Does anyone has any idea on how come an airplane with such a limitation can be certified by the faa? or if the people at eclipse came with a solution for this?"

Full text of the EASA document.

Good find carlos, the blog is grateful.