Raburn Energized, Candid At Oshkosh
By Rob Finfrock ANN Correspondent
"Okay, I'll say it... I told you so," said Eclipse Aviation CEO
Vern Raburn at the start of Tuesday's press breakfast at AirVenture
"When we first started talking about what has become known now
as the VLJ, (very light jet), an awful lot of people in this
industry-- an awful lot of folks in this room-- said 'yeah, maybe,
nah, it won't, it can't, it hasn't happened.' Now this has
become a very vibrant market, with lots of competition."
There were many topics covered at the presentation, including
news of twenty new aircraft orders, as well as a potentially major
advancement in fire suppression technology, a new customer support
program and announcement of a new Chief Operating Officer. There
were also several points that Raburn wanted to make very clear.
"A lot of people want to blame the FAA for everything," said
Raburn, defending the government's certification process
guidelines. "That's b.s. I'm kinda sick and tired of hearing people
blame the FAA." He added that the FAA has been cooperative with
Eclipse throughout the certification process so far.
"[FAA Administrator] Blakey is not on the side of those who want
to restrict access."
Raburn then highlighted some of the progress that Eclipse has
made since the company's appearance at Oshkosh last year. There are
now four aircraft in the FAA certification test fleet. Two of the
test fleet, N504EA and N505EA, were displayed at the front of the
tent, both having flown into Oshkosh this weekend.
The company has also secured insurance for its owners through
AIG, something that naysayers said couldn't be done. "We all know
what Cirrus customers are paying today in terms of new-aircraft
premiums, said Raburn. "AIG has committed to say that no premiums
are going to be above what you would pay to have a Baron, or a
Pilatus, or another type of aircraft."
Raburn then mentioned Eclipse's agreement with United Airlines
to provide training services for new Eclipse pilots. "United
Airlines invented CRM," said Raburn. "They came to us just about
this time last year and told us, 'you know, the way you guys think
about training is the way we think about training.'" Eclipse
announced in November that all pilot training would be conducted by
"If you pass the Eclipse type-rating course, you will get
insurance on your airplane," added Raburn.
The subject then turned to the recent increase in price on new
Eclipse Aircraft, now set at $1.295 million. Raburn was forthright.
"We've always priced our aircraft based on cost. In the last year,
Alcoa Aluminum has become a monopoly and the thing that happens
with a monopoly is they screw their customers. We pay $4.50-$5.00
per pound of aluminum and get about fifty cents per pound back on
recycling." According to Raburn, each aircraft requires
approximately 16,000 lbs. of aluminum, of which 700 pounds are
actually used on the airplane.
"We screwed up," admitted Raburn, "and we told our customers,
we're sorry, we screwed up."
Next was the introduction of Peg Billson as Chief Operating
Officer for the company. Billson has nearly 20 years experience in
the aerospace industry, including operations, finance, engineering
and customer and product support. She will be responsible for all
areas of operations at Eclipse.
"We are fortunate to welcome such a seasoned and respected
aviation leader to Eclipse," said Raburn. Billson was most recently
the vice president and general manager of Honeywell International
Inc.'s Aircraft Frame Systems business.
Raburn announced what may be a major advancement in
fire-suppression technology, the introduction of Eclipse's patented
PhostrEx system. Instead of relying on halon, the new system uses a
phosphorus compound that works in less than 1/10 of a second and
becomes inert when it contacts moisture in the air.
"We attract a lot of whackos at Eclipse," laughed Raburn. "But
[PhostrEx] inventor Peter Holland is a true inventor, complete
According to Raburn, PhostrEx is poised to completely replace
Halon 1301 and Halon 1211 as fire suppressants, as the new system
is far less complex and weighs as little as two pounds, compared to
16-20 lbs. for a typical halon system. The system also offers a ten
year maintenance interval.
"It's better than halon," Raburn said. He added that "halon will
soon be outlawed." It does not comply with environmental laws such
as the Montreal Protocol or the Clean Air Act. PhostrEx is fully
There was also news to report on the sales front, with the
announcement that OurPlane, a small GA fractional company based in
London, Ontario, Canada, has placed ten firm orders for new Eclipse
planes, with options for ten more.
Lastly, Raburn announced Eclipse's new Jet Complete program, an
owner support service modeled on similar programs available to
buyers of luxury automobiles such as Infiniti or Lexus.
Jet Complete will offer Eclipse owners access to programs
similar to those usually reserved to Part 121 operations, such as
factory flight support and dispatch services. With Jet Complete,
the owner will be able to contact an Eclipse Flight Support (EFS)
Briefer for flight planning, weather briefings, fuel stop planning
and flight-related arrangements at the destination. Operators may
also specify personal or corporate minimums, as well as other
information that may assist the briefer to provide a safe,
The program also offers OneCall AOG service, full maintenance
support, and three recurrent pilot training classes over a
three-year period. A customer may prepurchase coverage up to 1000
flight hours, with a cost of approximately $115 per flight hour,
with complete engine hot section and overhaul events covered for
another $94 per flight hour.
"On an airplane, the owner is forced to be a systems
integrator," said Raburn. "This will be a truly new experience,
that will change the definition of value."
"The work really starts now," said Raburn. "But we've kept our