2007 COLLIER TROPHY AWARDED TO ECLIPSE AVIATION CRITIC
Washington, DC – February 7, 2008 –
The National Aeronautics Association (NAA) has announced the winner of the coveted Collier Trophy. Commissioned in 1911, the Collier Trophy has been viewed as the most prestigious award in aviation. It is presented to those who have made “the greatest achievement in aeronautics…during the preceding year.”
The award for 2007 is novel, in that it is given to an Internet web log or ‘blog’ entitled Eclipse Aviation Critic. NAA President Jonathan Gaffney said, “We are proud to present the Collier Trophy to Eclipse Aviation Critic in recognition of their correctly estimating the number of jets delivered by Eclipse Aviation. This was not an easy task and certainly represents a giant step forward in aeronautics.”
Eclipse Aviation Critic was founded in April, 2006 by an aviation observer in Wichita, Kansas. Trained as an aeronautical engineer, Stan Blankenship is skilled in aircraft development having worked with Bill Lear, legendary developer of the Learjet. Blankenship opened the blog by raising questions about extraordinary promises made by Eclipse Aviation founder, Vern Raburn, compared to the company’s subsequent performance. In less than two years, the blog has logged 200 posts and attracted 20,000 comments.
Specifically, Eclipse Aviation Critic correctly estimated that 99 Eclipse jets would be delivered by the company in calendar 2007. At the time the blog was founded Eclipse Aviation predicted 1,000 jets would be delivered in 2007. Trying to guess the true number of the little jets to roll off the production line has occupied some of the great minds in aviation.
This has not been without controversy. Over forty bloggers submitted their estimates early in the year and the mean value of all these estimates was 99. The number 99 was submitted individually by blogger Black Tulip. Asked to comment he stated, “I guess it just shows that on average I’m a mean guy… er… no it shows that at the mean, I’m an average guy. If we had more time I’d describe the highly complex scientific criteria I utilized to choose the number ninety-nine.”
The subject of deliveries is also controversial because several bloggers, led by Gadfly, insist the company has failed to deliver even a single functional aircraft in 2007, or any other year. The aircraft is missing much of the functionality of other aircraft in its class including the ability to operate in icing conditions or a fully operating avionics suite.
Asked for his reaction, a senior aviation correspondent seemed stunned - “You’re kidding me. First Eclipse Aviation gets the award in 2005 and now Eclipse Aviation Critic in 2007? These are clear signs of the continuing decline of Western Civilization. Think of the greats who earned the Collier Trophy… Glenn Curtiss, Donald Douglas, Chuck Yeager, Kelly Johnson, Sam Williams. And now we’ve got these pretenders – a ‘company’ in New Mexico that can’t finish anything but keeps hauling in money and starting over… and now an Internet page! Orville and Wilbur have got to be spinning in their graves at the speed of the props on the Wright Flyer.”
The trophy will be presented this spring at a black-tie ceremony and dinner held at the National Air & Space Museum. Mr. Blankenship will accept the award on behalf of the blog. Reached by phone, he said, “I never expected to be going to Washington for such an honor. I’ve seen the dinner menu and I’m looking forward to the surf and turf. I’d like my filet medium rare and some friction stir fried vegetables on the side. Off the record, is there any way I can get out of wearing a tuxedo?”
Bloggers who have contributed to the site are invited from around the world. It is expected to draw aviation notables from as far away as South Africa. There has been a wide diversity of opinion expressed on the web site and this is reflected in the reservation name cards to be posted at the center of each table – Faithful, Critics, Diehards, Naysayers, Ex-Eclipsers, Neutral Observers, Spurned Vendors, Afrikaners, Russians, Dutchmen, New Mexico Politicians and Devout Raburnites.
Interestingly no table is to be provided for the Federal Aviation Administration as the FAA has been noticeably absent in the development of the aircraft. With tension running high, security at the event will be at an enhanced level. Specially trained guards will be sporting Winchester Model 1894 lever action rifles.
Black Tulip hopes to attend the dinner if he can work things out with his parole officer. “Sure I picked 99 but I don’t know if I should take that much credit. FlightCenter pointed out it was also the mean value of the whole crowd of buggers… uh, bloggers. Most of all I’d like to thank FlightCenter who tabulated and pushed these numbers around. He had a special touch in making them work out for me.”
Separately, a long-time reader of the blog (who no longer needs his Eclipse model now that he has a Phenom 100 on order) plans to send Black Tulip another prize - a scale model Eclipse 500. It’s an early one, with the Williams engines and no tip tanks. Black Tulip wondered, “Is Eclipse going to update this model to include Avio NG and known ice?”
One last contribution from Black Tulip.
The tulip mania peaked in the Netherlands during the 1630s. The black tulip was the most sought after, until found to be biologically impossible.