What a difference a year makes. At last year’s EAA AirVenture, Eclipse Aviation founder, president and CEO Vern Raburn made a dramatic entrance to the show aboard the Eclipse Concept Jet. At this year’s show, however, Raburn made a surprise exit, announcing yesterday that he was stepping down from the very light jet manufacturer.
Amid scuttlebutt about persistent financial problems, Eclipse Aviation founder and CEO Vern Raburn (left, in photo) stepped down today and company chairman Roel Pieper (right), a Dutch IT entrepreneur, became acting CEO, effective this morning. He had been serving as the non-executive chairman of Eclipse since early this year, when Etirc's investment of $100 million gave it a minority stake in the company.
Eclipse Aviation is back on the In the Works chart with the May launch of the EA-400 four-seat 330-knot single-engine jet. Although Eclipse has yet to make a formal application to the FAA for the EA-400 type certificate, the company has begun taking orders from existing Eclipse 500 buyers and opened the order book to new customers at the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh late last month. Price is $1.35 million (2008 $).
Eclipse Aviation in late June received flight into known icing (FIKI) approval for the Eclipse 500, though in-service and undelivered aircraft up to S/N 265 will require modifications to fly in such conditions.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has asked the Department of Transportation’s inspector general (IG) to investigate Eclipse Aviation. The investigation has been opened, a committee spokesman acknowledged, but he was unable to provide details about the subject of the probe.
Eclipse Aviation in late May launched the Eclipse 400, a single-engine jet that will be a close relative of the Eclipse Concept Jet (ECJ) prototype revealed last July at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. The announcement was made at the company’s E-rrival customer event in tandem with news of a price increase for the twin-engine Eclipse 500 very light jet (see page 58).
Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse Aviation in late May increased the price of the Eclipse 500 very light jet by about a half million dollars, putting it closer in range to the $2.76 million (2008 $) Cessna Citation Mustang, a slightly larger competitor. The 30-percent price increase to $2.15 million (June 2008 $) nearly triples the original $837,000 price tag announced for the twinjet some 10 years ago.
The pilot of an Eclipse 500 pushed the throttles forward during a wind-shear encounter at Chicago Midway Airport last month with enough force to result in an “eng control fail” crew alerting system message followed by a maximum uncontrolled thrust condition on both of the airplane’s Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofans.
Eclipse Aviation’s order book has been the subject of much speculation ever since the Albuquerque, N.M.-based startup company announced it had begun taking a slew of orders for its Eclipse 500 minijet. It seems that the warm and fuzzy afterglow that followed the airplane’s first flight on August 26 has loosened the hitherto tight lips of company founder and CEO Vern Raburn.
Eclipse Aviation said extra margin added to the Eclipse 500’s thrust lever forward range of motion should prevent the levers from being pushed beyond their design limits during normal operation.