Eclipse’s Raburn Reacts to Swipe from Teal Analyst Aboulafia

 - September 19, 2006, 1:12 PM

A day after Teal Group lead analyst Richard Aboulafia was quoted in the International Herald Tribune as saying the nascent very light jet (VLJ) market has the potential for a spectacular flameout, Eclipse Aviation founder and CEO Vern Raburn fired back by calling the oft-quoted (some might say over-exposed) market forecaster’s comments “ignorant and stupid.”

Asked during last month’s EBACE show in Geneva about VLJs in general and the air-taxi concept in particular, Raburn used the opening to blast Aboulafia about comments that appeared that morning in a newspaper article on VLJs. In the story a skeptical Aboulafia described a “worst-case” scenario in which the VLJ segment could become a “dot-com with wings.”

That comment touched a raw nerve in Raburn, who is a former Microsoft executive and was an early pioneer in the computing industry. During an interview with EBACE Convention News, a sister publication of AIN, Raburn talked about air-taxi operator DayJet, saying the startup company’s biggest challenge will be quickly building its network of Eclipse 500s, which initially will operate in the Southeast U.S. From everything he knows about the business model, DayJet will be a tremendous success, he said.

“This flies in the face of vocal and relatively ignorant critics such as Richard Aboulafia who have simply said it can’t happen because it hasn’t happened,” Raburn said. He heaped further criticism on the Teal analyst for not presenting the data to back up his assertions. “His theory is simply, it hasn’t happened, there’s lots of old airplanes, if it could have happened it should have happened. And he kind of misses all the points as to why this will occur, which is what you would expect from a traditional aviation market forecaster.”

Raburn said it’s understandable that traditionalists such as Aboulafia would have a hard time accepting the VLJ model, but making parallels to the Internet business model as a way of saying the concept won’t work is wrongheaded.

“He’s compared [VLJs] to dot-com,” Raburn said. “Well, if he really, truly understood what dot-com was, he wouldn’t use that comparison. It’s a fairly stupid statement–stupid’s not the right word; yeah, stupid is the right word–it’s an ignorant and stupid statement, because if he actually realized what’s happened in the dot-com world–with travel agents, stock brokers, newspapers, the media–dot-com’s working, buddy. Sorry, you’re wrong; dot-com actually has changed the world, and it has changed the world in very substantive ways. For him to say this is another dot-com just proves this is someone who is interested only in toss-away quotes. He doesn’t actually understand what he’s talking about
and he’s drawing analogies that are not only irrelevant but just plain, flat wrong.”