AirVenture 2008 Kicks Off With Stunning News
ANN REALTIME REPORTING 07.28.08 0900 CDT: Vern
Raburn left the helm at Eclipse Aviation accompanied by a
two-minute standing ovation from those in attendance at the
company's Monday press conference at AirVenture 2008.
"These things happen in the world of business," Raburn told ANN
after the applause wound down.
Raburn confirmed his departure from the Albuquerque, NM-based
planemaker was a condition for securing the latest round of
financing to keep the company afloat as it strives to turn a
profit, which Acting CEO Roel Pieper said he expects will occur
"sometime early next year."
Raburn will continue to be involved in Eclipse, but not
directly. He was named Vice-Chairman of ETIRC Aviation, the Dutch
company that is Eclipse's sole European distributor, and a
significant investor in the company.
Opinions about Raburn's departure ranged from words of praise
for his performance at Eclipse... to cheers that a new regime is
now in place.
"I hope Vern gets the credit due him as the driving force that
made VLJs possible," said Greg Scott, who says he was the first
non-professional pilot type-rated in the Eclipse 500. " He is an
Eclipse 500 Jeffrey Robert Moss had high praise
for his airplane. "I have 400 hours in the Eclipse 500 and I
love the airplane dearly," he said. "I came in yesterday at
FL410 from Van Nuys with one fuel stop in five hours."
Jon Paris is with Strategic Aeronautics, the company which
provides the Avio Flight Bag. "We were notified this morning" of
Raburn's announcement, he said. "The compay was built on Vern's
vision, and it will be interesting to see where it goes."
"The house Vern built is not going anywhere," added Strategic's
Another group of Eclipse pilots, who asked not to be identified,
said they were happy to hear Raburn would no longer be affiliated
directly with Eclipse.
"We're in shock, but we're glad to hear it," said one. "Someone
needed to come in and address the customer service end. Vern was
running a stranglehold on the organization, and because of it lost
a number of talented people."
Somewhat ironically... Raburn's departure comes as the company
displayed what some would call the first "fully conforming" Eclipse
500, outside its booth. Serial number 266 is the first production
bird mounted with Avio NG avionics including twin Garmin
GPS 400Ws, in addition to recently-certified modifications to
comply with flight into known icing (FIKI) approval.
0801 CDT: A bit over one year ago this day, a
jubilant Vern Raburn exited the flying prototype of his company's
Eclipse Concept Jet at AirVenture 2007, and asked his applauding
audience "well, what do you think?"
Raburn's entrance to this year's Eclipse press conference at
AirVenture will be far more somber.
Raburn told ANN exclusively that he has been removed by the
Board of Directors at Eclipse Aviation, the company he founded 10
years ago to bring a new very-light jet to the marketplace. He will
be replaced by Roel Pieper, CEO of European Technology and
Investment Research Center (ETIRC) Aviation.
As ANN reported, ETIRC made a substantial
investment in Eclipse in January, at which time Pieper was
named the "non-executive" Chairman of Eclipse Aviation.
A polarizing figure in the aviation world, Raburn can take
credit for launching an entirely new aviation company, bringing one
all-new aircraft to market with approximately 240 Eclipse 500s
delivered so far, and announcing development of a second, the
Eclipse 400 single-engine jet.
Detractors counter that Eclipse has burned through well over $1
billion in reaching this point... and the result has been an
aircraft that still is not fully equipped, with a number of key
capabilities still owed to customers. The Eclipse 500's image also
suffered following a highly-publicized throttle quadrant failure in
a customer's jet over Midway in early June, resulting in the pilot
performing a dead-stick landing. The NTSB reacted with an urgent safety recommendation,
that led the FAA to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive.
ANN will update this story throughout the day with reaction
throughout the industry. Stay tuned.