Struggling VLJ-Maker Bows Out Of Last Major Trade Event Of
As portents of the future go... this is a particularly ominous
one from Eclipse Aviation. Aero-News has confirmed the struggling
VLJ manufacturer has pulled its planned booth and static display
from this week's AOPA Expo in San Jose, a sign the Albuquerque,
NM-based company is circling the wagons as it continues to search
for badly needed investment funding.
Representatives with Eclipse would not go on record to ANN about
the reason behind the decision... but at this stage, it's not
irresponsible to assume the company is having difficulties in
securing the new round of financing
originally bandied by Eclipse Chairman and Acting CEO Roel
Pieper at AirVenture 2008, in his remarks following
the very public ouster of Eclipse founder Vern Raburn from the
If that assumption is correct -- and, due to the
company's possum-like stance with the media since Pieper took
control of Eclipse, the company has provided little reason or
information to dispute the assumption -- Eclipse is the latest
struggling planemaker to have trouble in securing new capital in
today's gloomy investment markets.
Last week alone saw new clouds on the horizons for two
on-the-bubble VLJ manufacturers.
As ANN reported, AAI Acquisition -- which
purchased the assets of the former Adam Aircraft out of Chapter 7
liquidation earlier this year and, like Eclipse, is backed by
Russian capital -- announced layoffs for most of its workforce due
to difficulties in securing new funding... casting new doubt on
whether the stillborn A700 will ever come to market.
Additionally, Grob Aerospace -- which took pains to note it
filed only "preliminary" insolvency in August --
fell into the pit with both feet last week,
announcing it would file full insolvency while also letting go much
of its staff.
Despite the lack of information coming from the company,
Eclipse's current woes are well-known within the aviation
community. In August, Eclipse slashed its production rates, and let go somewhere between 650 and 900
workers. The company asserted those decisions were
part of Pieper's "operational excellence strategy." Prior to that
move, Eclipse had finally neared its vaunted one-plane-per-day
production goal for its Eclipse 500... though each aircraft
delivered at that rate was also a money-loser, selling far below
the current $2.15 million pricetag.
Those layoffs came just before
a hearing before the House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee, questioning the FAA's
certification of the Eclipse 500 in light of its problematic
service record to date. Adding to Eclipse's difficulties was the September 19 shutdown of Florida-based
air taxi operator DayJet, Eclipse's largest customer.
At one time, DayJet had roughly 1,400 orders against Eclipse's
purported 2,600-strong order book.
Last week, aerospace analysis company Forecast International predicted Eclipse's probable downfall
sometime next year, joining storied Teal Group analyst
Richard Aboulafia in openly stating Eclipse Aviation is likely not
long for this world.
Having said that, Eclipse has a long record of defying the odds,
and thumbing its nose at the predictions of naysayers... though one
must wonder how many miracles Eclipse has left, particularly
without Raburn at the helm.