Sunday, November 1, 2009

What's Next for Eclipse ?

Now that the drama regarding Eclipse Aviation Corporation bankruptcy has been resolved, with Eclipse Aerospace winning the bid for $40M (or, well $20M plus promises to Al Mann and others, and discounting the $10M that Al Mann put in himself, leaving $10M, of which around half was borrowed, we can conclude that the fabulous assets of EAC (and none of the even more fabulous liabilities) were "locked up" for about $5M plus another $5M OPM (other people's money). Anyone think a $5M+ player is going to restart production with those kind of "deep pockets"? I think there's two probabilities:

1) No How
2) No Way

IMHO: They're gonna flip that sucker like a pancake!

From the press releases (admittedly, perhaps a bit, "Verntastic"), the facilities and infrastructure, and inventory and IP, were all substantial, worth MUCH more than $5M or $10M. For comparison, Cessna paid $26M for Columbia, a company with a very nice, but MUCH lower price point than the Eclipse (at least, a sustainable price point). That was during the "boom" times; but with all probability, there's going to be another "boom" time again, as our investigation of the past five business cycles, over the past 40 years showed.And when it comes, the Eclipse facility will be a hot commodity- I'd figure, with IP and what will be by then, a fully functioning parts and service network. I'd say to the tune of $100M or more.

And until then, Eclipse Aerospace wins, and the customers and supplier base wins, with parts and service support. NewCo might even make some bucks selling off excess facilities. Or subcontracting bits and pieces for other OEMs (aviation or non-aviation related) in lieu of manufacturing restart up. And make some bucks on the training program. And some bucks on the DayJet fleet. And some bucks on the assembly line articles- if they can be finished and delivered, even without PC (using individual FAA inspection- there's not all that many of them). And make some bucks either selling or licensing the EA400 Single Engine Jet (Con-Jet). For that matter, even licensing the EA500, without ever restarting production in ABQ.

Maybe some bucks in licensing the Phoestrex patent? (If the legal squable- yes, ANOTHER Eclipse OldCo legal squabble, has been patched up with the patent holders- see Dave Ivedorne's excellent post, on March 25, 2009, 2:54 PM). Although OldCo claimed it patented Monday and sunrises, there is some legal dispute in those regards as well. (I think a patent for Friday afternoon would be more marketable than the one for Monday morning though).

Or doing some sort of contract FSW for a military program or two?

I for one, think some foreign interests might pursue Eclipse, either license or the entire factory; Piper was bought by Imprimis, based in Brunei. (Apparently, for $20M in 1998+ $35M in 2003 + $31M profit = $86M. According to GAMA; in FY 2008, Piper delivered 216 pistons, and 52 turbines, Eclipse delivered 161 aircraft- in the first 8 months or so- I suspect Eclipse "out billed" Piper, and it would have been even more so if EAC hadn't stalled in the last part of the year).

And Emivest of Dubai owns the old (VERY old now) SJ30 program (nie, Sino-Swearingen SJ30; arguably/possibly, the only GA story rivaling Eclipse for weirdness).

How interested were the Russians? Since Eclipse denied (for a while anyway) any Russian connection, I figure just the opposite was true, to some extent. And remember, oil prices, on which the Russian boom was based, were over $125/barrel in the heady times of initial ETIRC involvement, but plummeted to below $50/barrel, when the time came to close the deal.

How interested were the Chinese? Definitely some courtship, at least contemplated. ("AIN has been in contact with a person who said he represents a Chinese company interested in bidding on the Eclipse assets, but he would not reveal any details by the time this article was published. He also would not confirm if he represents China Commercial Aircraft, which is interested in bidding on Eclipse’s assets, according to a March 17 article in the Albuquerque Journal." For those not following the Chinese aviation industry, there has been a shakeout/re-organization in progress, actually, for the last six months or so- which might have, er, dare I say- disrupted- plans for Chinese involvement. As might engine and avionics technology export concerns, etc. By sitting on the assets, EAC-NewCo might be, literally, buying time, for these details to be worked out. (The blog reported the FBI was asking questions some months back, presumably related to technology export concerns, with an undisclosed suitor).

And per the article about Columbia Aircraft above, they were owned by an affiliate of the Malaysian government.

How about Fuji Heavy Industries- they are doing the FSW wing assembly, with tooling and technology shipped from Albuquerque to Japan- maybe they'd be interested in buying the rest of the tooling and IP for an EA500 final assembly line in Japan? (Or just keeping in in New Mexico, for ease of dealing with a Production Certificate).

And I'm not arguing that production of the EA500 won't restart, and not even that it won't restart in ABQ- I think it very well might. (And personally, I hope so- on both accounts).

But I just don't see it happening with the current team that took months scraping together $5-10M. It will be a deep pockets adventure ($100-200M, if the ETIRC figures used in 2008 are a reasonable guide).

Could the current owners restart production? Possibly. But why would they want to, if they can "flip" the company for a 500-1000% return in a couple of years? And make a profit in the mean time, by providing parts and service.

Personally, I think they've made a very smart move by acquiring the assets to Eclipse. If the plane turns out to be a turkey, they make a mint by providing engineering, service, and parts. On the other hand, if turns out to be a great airplane, that just enhances the market value of the production facilities, once the larger economy improves in a year or two. Which is about the time it will take to work through the Dayjet fleet and customer-delivered rework.

So I think they're pretty smart guys (and seemingly, pretty honest guys too). My bet is they are smart enough to be aware of the adage;

"Q: How do you make a small fortune in aviation?"
"A: By starting with a large one."

I think there is nowhere that this is more true than in the manufacturing end of aviation.

Of course, priorities change, when working with OPM (other people's money). As we have well seen.

Still, I'd buy stock in Spatula City!

72 comments:

Phil Bell said...

Hi Gadfly,
Thanks for the reference to Royce- sounds like you come from quite a distiguished linage of literary and philosophy (as well as technology)- you have well continued the tradition!
Josiah Royce

Across the Plains; Sarah Royce's Western Narative

I have heard of Royce Hall quite a bit, although I don't believe I've been in the building.

"Due to its acclaimed acoustics and 6,600-pipe Skinner pipe organ, the building's 1,833-seat concert hall has often been used for recording sessions of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It serves as one of the home venues for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra".

Seems like in addition to musical venue's, I have heard a number of lectures broadcast from there, enough so to have, with repetition, caught the name of the forum. It's neat to know someone associated with the namesake!

In reading about your great-grandmother Sarah, who died when you grandfather was one year old, I am reminded of similar circumstances in my family history of the late 1800's. (Great-grandfather had two wives die in childbirth). Pretty rough times back then.

In reading about your great-grandfather Josiah and his philosopy ("One of the more striking features of Royce's philosophy is its emphasis on communities as being logically prior to individuals", from the Stanford article), location (California, although later at Harvard), and era (1855-1916), I was reminded of a drive through the desert, and stopping to investigate a roadsite ruin.

This was the remnants of Llano del Rio.

"Llano del Rio is one of the most distinctive ghost towns in the United States. Like many Utopian communities, it lasted only a short time — a few hopeful, productive years — before being abandoned. Unlike most, however, it was built to last — its granite foundations sourced from nearby mountain ranges...from a handful of families in 1914, it grew to a relatively thriving place in just under a year, boasting some 900 residents, a Montessori-style school, a rabbit farm and productive peanut fields, a hotel and meeting hall, and other infrastructure."

Demise due to water shortages, politics (internal and external), and socio-economic effects of WW1. Sadly, items which are equally troubling, and troublesome, these several generations later.

From Wikipedia, Llano Del Rio

Phil Bell said...

Another noble venture, with a much longer duration, but similiar ultimate fate:
The Amana Colonies in Iowa.
(Yup- that's where the Amana kitchen appliances, including the "Radar Range", are made- kinda weird).

Equally weird, or odd, should I say, is anther commune-ish peculiarity I stumbled across some time ago- King of Prussia, PA, "founded by Welsh Quakers". Now home to King of Prussia Mall, "the largest shopping mall in the United States of America in terms of leasable retail space". Go figure.

baron95 said...

Another very nice and informative post, Phil.

Unfortunately, these things don't happen in Internet time. We need to give new Eclipse time - as in years - to do its thing.

I still think that five years from now, a substantial number of EA500s will be flying around in the latest configuration, and they will remain the most fuel-economical (fuel/mile) fan jets in the sky for quite some time.

I see nothing in the horizon that can take that away from them.

At the same time, they'll have better avionics than any light jet manufactured before this decade.

Shane Price said...

Baron,

Unfortunately, these things don't happen in Internet time. We need to give new Eclipse time - as in years - to do its thing.

Good point, if slightly flawed. Time is indeed required, but time costs. Vern (and later Roel) found this out the hard way. Without 'new product' sales, how can EAI survive?

Yes they can charge for parts, but are now in competition with their suppliers, who have no further incentive to work with EAI. How can they, as there is no short term plan from EAI for volume sales of new product?

This gap between spare parts revenue and costs has to be bridged by the shareholders. Sadly, if there is one thing we can say with absolute certainty about the Eclipse saga to date, shareholders have lost 100% of their investment

Is EAI likely to provide a happier outcome, without building and profitably selling aircraft?

I'm pretty certain I know what I think.

How about you?

Shane

julius said...

Phil,

some positive neutrality... and an exit strategy for the usage of FSW...

Looking at Controller my impression is that the prices are going down...

Yes, the current future of the fpj (and the EA) is somehow adumbrated by the suits (wedge e. a. and the WIP-parts).
And the fpj is just a four-seater - the better "con-jet" with two engines!

On the other side for a long time there is also "a fast, fuel efficient" jet looking for a chance - SJ30 (two on Controller)!

I can imagine that some suppliers would like to see some real investments of the newco before they think about investing any money for their fpj parts productions.

After only two months in business (and CIT TU) one shouldn't expect much more than the slow and perhaps steady start of the business!

Julius

P.S.: One may blame Microsoft for quite a lot things, but to add a new device to a PC is a no-brainer as long as this new device fulfills some "standards".
Garmin as a software and hardware producer will have some problems with an "open" architecture (hardware and software).
An "open" system can be the basis for affordable software/hardware updates(or add-ons) for a/cs. But this is also a challenge for EASA, FAA, and GAMA!
Who will invest some money in new fpj avionics?

airsafetyman said...

With respect to Piper it is important to realize that two weeks after kicking the Chief Financial Officer out the door with no notice and bringing in their own guy to Piper, Imprimis essentially pulled the plug on the Piperjet. I would guess Imprimis is desperately trying to flip Piper for as little a loss as possible. Look for the new CFO to be the new CEO within four to five months, if indeed, it takes that long.

airsafetyman said...

As for the current group of clowns at Eclipse having a chance of making a profit, my next-door neighboor's teenager has better odds of launching a moon rocket from his backyard. I doubt if they can hold it together long enough to flip it at a loss. One of the problems is that any large diversified firm with an aviation division and enough experience and resources to straighten out the mess (Mitsubishi, Fiat, ect.) is going to have enough experienced aviation people who will sound the alarm - loudly. Maybe they could flip it to the Sultan of Brunei - if he has any money left after the Piper fiasco?

Phil Bell said...

Hi Baron,
I agree 100% with everything you said (especially the "Another very nice and informative post":)

Heh heh- just kidding, but thank you.

"Unfortunately, these things don't happen in Internet time. We need to give new Eclipse time - as in years - to do its thing."

(Say, isn't that what Vern told Al Mann"? :)

I agree completely- my timeframe would be a little bit shorter (2 year-ish, maybe 3), but your's coincides with a highest growth region of the curve on the Honeywell forecast from a couple of threads back, and would be the time when the assets would have their highest value. (But if someone comes along with a really good offer sooner, such as a foreign interest, whose recovery might be ahead of the U.S., I suspect a deal could be made).

And I quite agree, we should give NewCo time to "do it's thing", and not have unrealistic expectations from a pretty thinly financed operation. (Or miracles from a miraculously well financed operation either, as OldCo demonstrated).

But I think "It's thing" will be, providing parts and service in the near term, and then probably flipping the company when market conditions improve.

(And in the near term, that's great for everyone involved, except the unemployed assembly personnel; but regrettably, there's just no way anyone could restart production right now, with the market the way it is).

I appreciate and agree with your concern about having a rush to judgement about NewCo, and a delay in restarting the production line should not be mark against them. (In fact, I think it is a mark of wisdom in their favor, given the economic climate).

"I still think that five years from now, a substantial number of EA500s will be flying around in the latest configuration, and they will remain the most fuel-economical (fuel/mile) fan jets in the sky for quite some time."

I agree! In fact, I think all of them will be flying around in the latest configuration by then, and maybe sooner than that. I too admire it's fuel efficiency*. It will be interesting to see how overall maintenance costs go- I remember the impressive white paper OldCo had on it's website describing this. It sounded pretty well thought out (not to become overinthralled with other OldCo propaganda)

(*And remain rather pleased with the idea of a twin jet, over a larger single. but I think there is a real market for SEJ's too, once things rebound- it will be interesting to see how the other SEJ programs from Diamond, Cirrus, and Piper progress- if they do well, I should expect a viable market for the EA-400 too).

"I see nothing in the horizon that can take that away from them."

I think the biggest problem with the EA500 was previous management objectives of OldCo (rushing to establish market segment dominance, before the product was ready. Some would say, before the market segment was ready as well, but I disagree, and think 261 delivered airplanes, and 266 plaintiffs, demonstrate that there was a reasonable, if not explosive, demand).

"At the same time, they'll have better avionics than any light jet manufactured before this decade."

I'm pleased to hear that there will be continued support for the current architecture, plus, to some degree at least, development support for product improvement.

Overall, I must say, I'm a bit of an "enthusiast" for the airplane, and wish it's owners, NewCo (and if things so evolve NewerCo), the best over the coming years.

julius said...

airsafetyman,

like in politics the new stakeholders will place their people in strategic positions. The exchange of the CFO is just a solution of a possible loyalty problem. Now the CEO knows that he must contact his CFO before publishing any new ideas...

Imprimis is smelling a double dip?
Another two years...

Julius

Phil Bell said...

Hi Shane,
I agree with everything you said too!
"Time is indeed required, but time costs. Vern (and later Roel) found this out the hard way. Without 'new product' sales, how can EAI survive?"

Time IS money. Hopefully, the present owners will not recreate the cash burn rate that OldCo had (what, $100M per month, was the blog's ball park estimate- at that rate, a LITTLE time, was a LOT of money).

"Yes they can charge for parts, but are now in competition with their suppliers, who have no further incentive to work with EAI. How can they, as there is no short term plan from EAI for volume sales of new product?"

I see just getting the old suppliers on board, at any price, as a challenge- (but perhaps one that is being met). The comfortable thing for NewCo is, they really don't have to care what the price is- they will just pass it along to a captive market. Whereas OldCo had to promise ludicrous volumes, to get a high-volume-based, low price, to keep new build aircraft prices down. Thankfully, NewCo does't have that constant pressue, and should be able to broker more realistic contracts with suppliers.

"This gap between spare parts revenue and costs has to be bridged by the shareholders. Sadly, if there is one thing we can say with absolute certainty about the Eclipse saga to date, shareholders have lost 100% of their investment"

Quite correct! To minimize that gap, I suspect NewCo (Eclipse Aerospace) will stive to control overhead costs, and NOT pursue excess capacity and related cost.

"Is EAI likely to provide a happier outcome, without building and profitably selling aircraft?"

I think the biggest ROI, and lowest risk, is to be had by providing parts and service, until that market is in decline (after the existing fleet of 261 is retrofitted- maybe a 2-3 year project). After that, revenue sources will be drying up a bit, and the decision will have to be made whether to remain a parts and service operation, or restart production. (Or sell to someone intersted in restarting production. Why risk $100M in capital for restarting production, if the factory can be SOLD for $100M- at a five to ten fold profit. While the NewCo is undoubtedly sincerely enthusiastic about the EA500, I think they are also undoubtedly very smart businessmen. There's some long term advantage to restarting production themselves- but it is, LONG term, longer than the five year's Baron mentions- possibly more like 5-10 years, and that would conicide with a downturn in what appears to be historically an eight-year business cycle for aviation).

Intersting "bird watching" ahead!

Phil Bell said...

Hi Julius,
I agree with everything you said too!
(Gee, I'm sure an agreeable guy this morning! :)

"After only two months in business (and CIT TU) one shouldn't expect much more than the slow and perhaps steady start of the business!"

I agree- and urge folks not to expect instant success from Eclipse Aerospace (NewCo). But I am actually pretty confident of their ability to generate near-instant profit over the coming months- I think they are being very smart about the activities they are engaging in, and seem to be controlling costs and cash flow well. Promising signs, for long term support of the existing fleet.

airsafetyman said...

"The exchange of the CFO [of Piper]is just a solution of a possible loyalty problem. Now the CEO knows that he must contact his CFO before publishing any new ideas..."

With Piper being owned by an Islamic dictator who put in his own Chief Financial Officer, I think the current president of Piper has to get permission to go to the bathroom.

julius said...

airsafetyman,

that's not only an islamic attitude - what about your southern neighbours and the ready-mixed concrete business?

That's life, without or little compensation!

Julius

airsafetyman said...

"that's not only an islamic attitude - what about your southern neighbours and the ready-mixed concrete business?"

?

gadfly said...

Over the weekend, I received news about the death of a former classmate (from Moody Aviation, Moody Bible Institute, from back in 1962 and following). Ron Royce was slated to go to the mission field, but his wife became an invalid, so he became a flight instructor, instead, teaching hundreds of “bush pilots” over the past forty years. On October 22, 2009, with a 38 year old student (preparing for service in Africa), while flying in a Cessna 206, they crashed into a mountainside near Elizabethton, Tennessee. Evidently, the aircraft burned . . . probably on impact . . . cause of crash unknown to me.

http://www.asimas.com/ASIMAS/hertetrick/obituaryDescription.jsp?domain_id=285&deceased_id=209627

In the near future, many of Ron’s former students will be flying the new Quest “Kodiak” . . . so far, an excellent replacement for the older Cessnas.

gadfly

(A couple years ago, I asked Ron about the possibility of being related by the “Royce” connection, and we are not.)

julius said...

airsafetyman,

CEMEX(Mexico) was/is known for controlling its new acquistions via the replacing the CFOs. The local CEOs better understand the tough local businesses or are better suited for installing the new business models.

Julius

baron95 said...

Man, Mulally is on a roll. $1B in profits at Ford. Profitable in car operations on all regions, including North America (first time since 2005).

The Ford Family should all line up and bow to him (or blow him). Only automaker shareholders in North America not to have their holdings completely wiped out and gifted to UAW, Italians, USGov, Canadian, Gov.

If he keeps this going, he will be the most successful manufacturing CEO of our times.

Well done.

airsafetyman said...

Thanks Julius,

However at Piper the new guy has more management than financial credentials. I see the current president (the guy who cratered Adam Aircraft) out in four months and replaced by the new CFO.

Shadow said...

ASman,

Piper prez John Becker is a 20-year Piper employee. I believe you're referring to Piper CEO Kevin Gould, who previously was at Adam Aircraft. IMO, Adam Aircraft was doomed from the very beginning. Rick Adam's design was just flawed, starting with the wing structure that protrudes into the cabin. That's a design right out of the 1970s era, and one that rightly belongs to stay in aircraft of that vintage.

airsafetyman said...

"Piper prez John Becker is a 20-year Piper employee. I believe you're referring to Piper CEO Kevin Gould, who previously was at Adam Aircraft."

Correctamundo. Thanks. Kevin is the one half way out the door.

Shadow said...

Becker was actually leading the PiperJet program until he was kicked upstairs. If anyone will see the PiperJet program through, it will definitely be him.

Floating Cloud said...

Dear Gadfly

I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend - especially since he died in an airplane accident along with his passenger - my condolences truly.

It’s especially poignant to me because the universe came up with yet another pilot to cross my path lately. That's four in the last six weeks when previously I had met nary a one until I started to think about airplanes reading this blog.

At any rate, I decided to go for it because he has thirty years of experience and I felt that I could trust him (to know what he was doing). So I went flying with him in his single engine Cessna just yesterday down to Elephant Butte lake and back. It WAS wonderful! I even helped assist him with replacing a small (as he called it, outdated) piece of avionics - an ADF.

I'm quite good at knowing my tools and handing them over in the most convenient manner when one is upside down under a hood or dash or in a museum handling very valuable art... The tinkering got me to relax a bit before we took off because well, true confessions, I have been in only one small airplane and it was not a good experience some twenty odd years ago.

So Floating Cloud actually flies (not by myself obviously) but now I am really hooked and can't wait to go again!

To cheer you up, I added this link to an incredible material that could have an aviation application one day. Talk about composites…

Floating Cloud, aka Flying Cloud

spider silk

Shadow said...

ASman, apparently Gould isn't the only one with a foot out the door. It was just announced that Becker is leaving as of December 1.

airsafetyman said...

"It was just announced that Becker is leaving as of December 1."

Well, Shazam! I'm speechless. There are those at Piper who would like to poke Becker with a sharp stick; he was not very well liked. However he was not one of the American Capital Strategies dudes, like the idiot former CEO Jim Bass or the CFO who got canned with one day notice. This is huge!

gadfly said...

Well, what can I say to those that would float, or fly?

My friend of long ago is right now, as we speak, with the Creator of the Universe . . . and I envy him. The One that inspired the Psalmist to write about riding on the wings of the wind . . . Ron is right here and now with the Author.

That first summer . . . 1962 . . . twenty five young men, all having fulfilled the first two years of hard study, “Theology, English, Bible Synthesis, Bibliology, Basic Electronics, Teaching, and countless other pre-requisites”, were now in a complete “lock down” for a week of intensive tests . . . even Navy basic and Submarine School were easy in comparison (and Sub school was no picnic, believe me). Twenty five young men began that week . . . twelve emerged to continue, there was no opportunity to offer excuses . . . no second chances. Ron Royce and eleven others of us continued through the summer. (I stayed behind at the airport through the remainder . . . mowing 82 acres of grass every two weeks, and painted all the buildings and hangars “white” with green trim . . . including the “Tee” hangars . . . the school superintendent was not amused . . . he wanted “blue”, but my “boss” only had green enamel, and I did what I was told. I was dating the girl I would soon marry . . . riding a ten-speed Schwinn bike, that I modified to a “twelve speed” along Irvine Blvd., in and out of Chicago, near Wrigley Field . . . 25 miles round trip for each “date” . . . it “took” . . . we were married in a snow storm, 22 December 1962 . . . but that’s another story.

My friend and classmate was married later in about 1963 . . . I kinda lost track about that time, since I had to drop out of school for a year and a half, and worked for United Airlines for awhile, at ORD . . . flying and maintaining a family is an expensive sort of thing . . . and since my own wife was “great with child”, it took some time to get back into the program . . . there was no such thing as government subsidy. So two sons, and much effort later I continued, and finished the program.

In the mean time, Ron Royce continued to become an excellent pilot . . . and, as mentioned earlier, trained possibly “hundreds” of other pilots, to go into “insane” conditions, fly in and out on daily errands . . . transporting missionaries, of course, and countless sick and wounded folk, in conditions beyond the imagination of normal folks.

And that reminds me of another story . . . for another time.

gadfly

mountainhigh said...

I'm not surprised Becker is out. Just thought it would take a little longer.

Its been known inside the industry (for a while now) that the PiperJet requires a significant redesign. Since Becker was in Engineering... what could you expect.

Imprimis probably feels somewhat "stung" in regard to the Jet issues. I expect there was quite a bit of "whitewashing" going on at Piper before the purchase in May.

gadfly said...
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airsafetyman said...

"Its been known inside the industry (for a while now) that the PiperJet requires a significant redesign. Since Becker was in Engineering... what could you expect."

An "S" duct design to get the thrust in line with the CG? If Boeing can do it on the 727, and Lockheed on the L-1011, and Dassault on two models of corporate jets, and even the Russians have done it on a couple of their airplanes, why can't Piper do it?

gadfly said...
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Luke said...

Here's a personal story about Ron Royce which hopefully is on topic...

I'm 26 years old, and some of my earliest memories are of Mr. Royce. For the first 6-7 years of my life, my family attended his church (Grace Fellowship in Johnson City, TN), and I remember him as the song leader. At the time, I liked to sing, and I enjoyed him much more than the other adults, since they just talked in adult language which I didn't understand.

Late one night, my family went to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in Johnson City and ran into Ron Royce. He said that he was just getting back from a trip. My dad asked him where he had come from, and he said he flew up from Texas. My dad asked how long it took him, and he replied that he made the whole trip in one day. He said it as though it was easy. I remember that. I was thoroughly impressed -- and envious. I promised myself that I would fly planes when I grew up.

It wasn't until several years later that I experienced my first airplane ride. I was 12 years old, and a pilot at Moody Aviation in Elizabethton, TN, who was undoubtedly a good friend and student of Ron's, took me up in a Skyhawk. That flight was a dream come true for me. Sadly, this missionary pilot passed away in a Pilatus Porter in Indonesia a few years ago.

It's interesting to think about how a man whom I never really knew could have such an impact on my life. It saddened me to hear about his crash.

baron95 said...

The problem with Piper is that they've always done engineering on the cheap.

We have a Navajo. Want to make a Turboprop? No problemo. Just pump her up and hang turbines on. Oh wait, the thing is unflyable. No problemo. We put a bunch of springs and gismos on the elevator controls.

We have a Malibu. Want to make a Turboprop. No problemo. But wait the top of the green in 188KTS, so, no problemo we make that VMO. No, we can't do hard engineering to strengthen test the wing/tail for even 200KTS Vmo. Or to make the Cheyenne handle like it should. No siree. That is hard s%$#.

Well. That worked, so long as Cessna's engineering was doing only slightly better and Mooney's was doing even worse. And Beech. Well. Beech does not believe in new models. Ever.

But enter companies like say Diamond, that actually do hard engineering. And suddenly Diamonds fixed gear 4-place single with 180HP is 20kTS faster than Piper's 200 HP retract single.

And they tried the same s$#@ with the PiperJet. Well, but now it has to go up against the Mustang, the Phenom, even the Eclipse and DiamondJet. Planes that actually handle and perform.

And they spent months playing with deflecting the thrust, and Cheyenne-like artificial pitch augmentation. Good luck with that!!!

That freakishly long wing, that short couple between the wing and the tail, that abomination high-mounted engine, wing spar intrusion, etc, etc, etc.

The thing is a sink hole of cheap engineering.

My guess is that a number of the "promised" fixes, when test flown or properly modeled, simply didn't work. So heavy engineering redesign remains.

Toss that s$#@ out. Hang a couple of 617s on it. Do a proper, underbody wing with a better airfoil, better high lift devices, shorter span, or call it quits.

The game has changed. Engineering is actually being done in VLJs, that rival larger aerospace projects of just a few years ago.

No place for cheap tinkering. These small turbofans are nor forgiving of airflow losses due to poor design, or capable of carrying high drag structures a-loft competitively.

With a prop upfront, a little drag here, a little loss there are no big deal. With clean small fan-jets, any loss is a *HUGE* penalty.

Roll over and die already.

gadfly said...

Luke

You are precisely on topic. If it weren't for a love of flying, and all the other things that I know you believe, there is little purpose in discussion of airplanes, and flying. When airplanes are used for the purposes that Ron, and many others have pioneered, going back to Betty Greene and Nate Saint, they reach their highest purpose. Even Igor Sikorsky saw his helicopters in the role of saving lives . . . physical and otherwise.

Thanks for your comments about this fine and honorable man.

gadfly

gadfly said...

And Luke, 'just one more anectdote about Ron Royce. Back in "A&P" school, we began each morning with a short time of song and devotion . . . selecting each day a hymn from the little white "Intervarsity" hymn book. What a way to begin an eight hour day, a dozen guys singing a song of praise, before beginning intensive studies on welding, or vacuum instruments or antenna transmission lines. Of all the subjects studied in those cold Illinois winters, that part of the day stands out as the highlight. 'Certainly not the norm, since the FAA rated Moody at the top of the scale in excellence of scholarship.

gadfly

(Having had a fair share of military training in the Navy, etc., Moody was more difficult and more disciplined. Ron Royce was such a person.)

gadfly said...

Baron’s comments on the Piper Jet are worthy of consideration. To be quite honest, getting past the “glitter”, it looks like a typical school bus bolted on a standard truck chassis. It does not have the refinement of an aircraft designed “on purpose” from the “get-go”. It reminds me of the old “Tri Pacer”, an overstuffed mosquito standing on “tippy-toes”. But then, that’s what I see.

gadfly

(There's the old saying that if you apply enough power to a brick, it will fly. Maybe we have lost a couple generations of engineers, growing up on "hand launch gliders", designed at home, and the many lessons learned while refining aspect ratios, dihedral, "CG", and all the other fine points that make for something that truly flies.)

gadfly said...

A long, long, time ago . . . even before I was a glint in my father’s eye, Germany was restricted in what they could do . . . after the “Treaty of Versailles” (1919), but that did not stop them from advancing aeronautical design and understanding . . . right up to 1939. Full size gliders, and model airplanes, produced a phenomenal amount of advancement in the science of aeronautics/aerodynamics.

It is amazing what can be learned, and developed with things so simple as a “primary glider”, and the building/flying of model airplanes . . . without the benefit of “radio control” and “computers”. All this sort of thing forces the brain to work, and work hard, to develop better designs. At my age, I’ve seen the impossible performed without computers, but the basic understanding of practical aerodynamics (cf: P-38, A6M, P-51, P-80, U-2, C130, X-15, SR-71 “Blackbird”, et. al.) . . . and I’ve seen those who depended on computer modeling, and “extrapolated data”, from “low speed wind tunnel testing” (cf: Eclipse VLJ),including the many lazy attempts at greatness by the “bean counter” mentality (. . . put enough dollars into a brick, and it’s bound to fly).

The economy “stinks” . . . what an opportunity for “some” (those rare few who have the guts, the intelligence, the skills, the down-right “nerve”), to move aerodynamics/aircraft manufacturing into the next stage, the next level of true innovation.

For instance, couldn’t a person produce a simple “wind tunnel”, so simple a “home schooled kid” could play with it, build/design some new airfoil . . . maybe a “high lift” device/flap/wing/ or? , and launch an entire new concept of “VLJ” or "Turbo-prop" (re: "Kodiak") with an ultra-low speed landing/takeoff aircraft, for the next generation of commuter private aircraft?

Or, we could all have a great big “Pity Party” . . . moan and groan over the conditions, and miss the opportunity.

gadfly

(Oh, to be twenty years younger . . . On second thought, I’m content . . . I “did my thing” . . . and my future is secure. But for my grand-kids, . . . they have a full plate.)

gadfly said...

Phil

Each day, I expect your little Japanese "Flap-jack-rabbit" to somehow jump out of that stack of "cakes" . . . and nothing happens!

gadfly

(But I'm an optimist at heart! . . . maybe the next time!

You ate him, didn't you! I knew it!)

WhyTech said...

"If he keeps this going, he will be the most successful manufacturing CEO of our times."

My fcst: in another year or so when Ford is looking really good, he'll replace McNerney at Boeing to get that mess straightened out.

Phil Bell said...

Hi Gadfly,
I am sorry for the loss of your friend Ron Royce- sounds like a wonderful man. I am sure he will continue to influence the lives of many, with the knowledge and character that he imparted to many of his students- a better life than that is rare indeed.

Thanks to Floating_Cloud and Luke for their wonderful and poignant anecdotes.

Floating_Cloud- glad to hear that you are flying! It's a hoot, and I can't think of a prettier place than New Mexico to do it.

Luke- you and Gadfly got me interested in the Moody Bible Institute. (I can't quite remember why I've heard of it so much, but I have).

A couple of other Christian colleges with aviation programs come to mind- lately, I've met several folks who are graduates of Letourneau University.

And many folks I run across are from Parks Aeronautical College (Part of St. Louis University).

And I have several friends from College of the Ozarks (formerly known as School of the Ozarks, which has an engineering prep program).

Good choices all. Noted on a church bulletin board a few weeks ago: "If you have God as a co-pilot, you need to change seats".

(Sage advice- and better to do it on the ground, than flying along in bad weather, although that experience is usually more profound! ...I suppose too often we fly around on autopilot... :)

Phil Bell said...

Rather sadly it seems Parks Aeronautical college was moved from their former facilities, back around year 2000.

Formerly in Cahokia (a few minutes east of downtown STL). The article is from 2004, I believe they were near KCPS.

Some history of Oliver Parks, founder of the college St. Louis Downtown Airpot. "Fully one-sixth of all U.S. Army pilots of the era were trained at Parks’ Midwestern facilities" (expanded to facilities in several states at the time).

For our friends contemplating combining formal education with aviation, this article mentions,

"The Ohio State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and University of North Dakota are several of the largest university that offers flight trainings".

(It also mentions "approximately 7,000 US dollar for the PPL or Private Pilot License", which I found fairly recently, to be about right).

"Central Missouri State University, Purdue University, the University of North Dakota and Parks College at Saint Luis University. This is a great choice for students who want to become a pilot and get a college degree.".

I imagine there are a lot of other fine opportunities out there- best wishes to all our friends who might be contemplating flying- (and/or college).

Phil Bell said...

Hi Gadfly,
I've heard of rabbits jumping out of hats, but bunnies jumping out of pancakes?!?

Your mention of Japanese rabbits got me curious though- and I found the story of the bunny with a pancake on it's head, named Oolong.

It does appear, Oolong seems to be "waffling" with his choice of head-dress though (no doubt, too many things on his mind).

I'm sad to report, Oolong died in 2003. Which just goes to prove, "Hare today, gone tomorrow".

I rather have "breakfast on my mind" too, so to speak, so I'm going to get "hopping" along!

Hope everyone has a nice morning!

(p.s.- Don't worry about bunny hair (hare?) in your pancakes- worry about a fly in my soup).

While no bunnies were hurt in the filming of Oolong's modeling career ("The head performance is actually a result of the domestic rabbit's natural tendency to cuddle with each other, other animals (like housecats) and their owners by putting their heads underneath the others' chin", I'm not sure the same can be said for the fly in the German restaurant).

As a tribute to the, um, artist and performer, (although I'm not sure which one is which, but Hironori Akutagawa was the kind owner of Oolong):
Oolong's webpage

Oolong's successor, Yuebing

KnotMPH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gadfly said...

The pseudonym “KnotMPH” is an opportunity to launch into a discussion of how things progress in the world of general aviation . . . and, frankly, almost every other technical field. If we all waited for the average college graduate, especially if followed by the term “PhD” to perform, our friendly blogger might more accurately call himself something to do with “furlongs per fortnight” . . . or “leagues per century”. Folks that make things happen don’t wait for the “herd” . . . they get on with it, regardless of opinion polls . . . or whatever.

Eclipse was an example of folks that wanted to be on the cutting edge, but never paid their dues understanding the basics. Yes, they saw others expanding technology, but thought they could find a “short cut” . . . using technology to cover their own lack of understanding of the basics.

Bottom line: There are no “shortcuts” . . . from the get-go, it takes a serious commitment to understanding the basics of any technology . . . and a lot of hard work down at the “dirty fingernail” level . . . sometime beginning before a person has reached the ripe old age of entering “kindergarten”. And no, I’m not kidding! Show me a child . . . age five, six, seven . . . and I’ll soon determine whether or not such a “kid” is going to make it . . . or conform to the herd.

There are those rare few that may not appear to be the “brightest”, but “hang back” . . . and struggle to learn. Ah yes . . . so many times I was in deep trouble . . . grammar school, Junior High, High School, and even “flight school”, because I asked the forbidden question “Why?”.

But they (the “little ones”, that I love so much) desire to understand what’s going on around them . . . and maybe that’s the key . . . understanding. I just watched a couple grandsons, watching some video on Adobe Premiere CS3, contemplating how to edit about an hour of video . . . there is really very little to do . . . the subtle clues of four grand-kids, watching themselves, as their former house is “demolished”, and the foundations of a new home are laid . . . I realize there is little that I can do, to expand their imagination and understanding of what it takes to dig a deep hole, pour the footings, and raise a home. The digital Canon MiniDV footage showed some bruises . . . the tragic event of a sibling destroying the hard work of another . . . with the assurance of the “Daddy” (my son) that what was destroyed may be “re-built”. Snow was falling in each scene . . . but didn’t seem to slow the activity of four of my grand kids.

Today, just three years later, the two story house, with a full basement stands where once the former house once stood. Sometimes cattle graze in the back yard . . . and we enjoy “grass fed” beef on occasion. But those early days . . . just three years ago, will contribute to more understanding of what it takes to plan, design, build a dream, than an entire education at the finest university in the world.

gadlfy

(Maybe some will think such talk is “off topic”, but for a fact, it’s dead on target. How do I know? . . . Been there, done that! . . . and with success. And if you’ve followed these blogs for the past umpteen years, you know that every time you get on a commercial jet, you and I are specifically connected . . . far more than you realize.)

baron95 said...

KnotMPH...who owns the Jetstar TC.

Hi KnotMPH, I haven't kept current, but as of a couple of years ago, LokheedMartin created a Continuing Airworthiness Project Office with dedicated staff to support all out of production aircraft, including the 80 or so JetStars (over half are overseas) still flying.

So I believe LM is still the TC owner.

As to Saturn, GM did not "flip" Saturn "onto" anyone.

Saturn will cease operations after the 2010 MY. Shutdown like Oldsmobile and Pontiac.

Other than Cirrus and Diamond, I don't see much happening at the "personal transportation" end of Piston GA.

Piper still has a chance. They need to re-engine and clean-up their piston fleet. There is a nice TSIO550-FADEC STC about to be done for the Malibu/Mirage that Piper should jump on. The Archer/Arrow need a aero-cleanup and move to IO-390s, etc...

If they stand still they will surely die.

Shane Price said...

KnotMPH,

Sort of like getting married to your cousin to escape a bad family.

Couldn't have put it better myself....

Looking at the worldwidemotor industry today (I know this might shock some of our readers, but there is one outside the US of A) a few interesting items stuck me:-

1. Toyota, who last year overtook GM as the 'volume king' having long ago sped past if for profits, this morning announced they were pulling out of Formula 1. Can't afford it, they say. Some counter claim it's because they failed to win a single race in 8 years of trying.

2. GM have pulled out of the sale of Opel (their brand name in most European markets) to a mixed bag of Canadians and Russians. Seems the Russians were a bit slow coming up with the money. Remind me where I've heard that line before....

3. At last weeks Toyko motor show, none (and Lotus does NOT count) of the major European or American brands showed up. Seems everyone had spent their marketing money in China 6 weeks ago. Remember back when Japan was a 'target market'?

I talked to a few of the 'former' EAC depositors over the past days. They generally seemed confident that there was some chance of getting money back, although one did put more emphasis on retribution as the most likely outcome.

Personally, I expect any litigation to drag on for an extended period. In my opinion, the only people likely to see any return from this are the lawyers.

As for a production restart, I don't see it. Clearly EAI don't either, as they simply refuse to show their hand. I begin to share Phil Bell's view that the most likely outcome is a quick flip in a year or two.

Shane

gadfly said...

baron

Early on, the “Saturn” was shown to be the orphan child. I don’t pretend to know the inner workings of GM, nor how this strange child suddenly appeared. It had all the right things going for it . . . but it didn’t have the “union” credentials . . . and somehow, I think that right there it was deemed “illegitimate”. Maybe in time, it could have overcome the appearance of something “demented” . . . with its “closely positioned eyes” . . . reminds me of some old films that were widely distributed back in the “thirties”.

Folks that towed it behind their motor homes liked it . . . it was cheap, and didn’t cost a fortune in gas, to carry it “behind”. But soon on, it was obvious that GM had no fondness for this illegitimate sibling . . . a bad memory of a weekend somewhere. Saturn never had a chance . . . “Planned Parenthood” would have had it out of sight in an instant. Come to think of it . . . there is a connection.

gadfly

(It is breaking the heart of some of our “retired friends” . . . their little friendly “Toad Car”, following them around the nation.)

gadfly said...

Pretend for a moment that you have just arrived from the hidden planet/satellite behind the moon. And you have just gone over the books of “Eclipse”. It isn’t about to survive, is it?! It’s all over but the shouting.

For a time, some faithful folk will attempt at keeping it breathing . . . enough to impress a few political type folks with ulterior motives . . . but the breathing rate will decrease . . . the heart-rate will “slow” . . . and before long . . . “flat line”. Ah yes . . . flat line! And now what to do? . . . burial? . . . or cremation? Frankly, I propose putting the corpse in a “vault”, above ground, to remind future generations of what “has been” to those of what “could be” . . . but then, the gadfly buzzes to a different tune.

gadfly

(If you have been on top of the latest of astronomy, of late, you will know that Saturn is not the only planet with “rings” . . . but if I tell you “which”, I’ll make it all too easy.

Ah yes, Eclipse! . . . we knew you “when”!)

gadfly said...

'Funny thing here . . . 72 years old, coming up on 6PM . . . perfectly content . . . and it's now time to go home. For folks without a clear purpose for living! . . . what can I say?!

gadfly

(Sure glad that "daylight savings time" is over . . . a pox on Ben Franklin for that idiotic program. Oh, you didn't know he invented it? . . . How 'bout that!)

baron95 said...

Gad - Saturn was the worst possible idea for GM. It ended predictably as a failure.

GM/Chevy Had a Problem - we can't make, sell cars in a way that is appealing to well informed buyers in the two coasts to compete with the imports.

Obvious Solution - Invest and fix GM/Chevy product line up, dealership, brand (like they are doing now).

Cockamamie Solution - Lets leave the existing GM/Chevy brands to continue on their poor performing way, and create another division to perform like buyers want it to perform for 3% of our total sales.

Brilliant. Leave 97% of sales underperforming and invest in 3% performing on par with imports. Like that was going to last.

This is the same thing that Beech tried with the Starship. King Airs had a cruise speed deficit and utilitarian image. Instead of making them speed/image competitive, Beech decides to invest all the resources on the halo Starship. Meanwhile, Cessna ate their lunch with the Citation line.

Finally (second half of this decade), they decided to upgrade the fleet with new engines for more speed, and glass.

Ford's (Nasser's) solution was even dumber. Lets let Ford and Lincoln and Mercury starve (except for trucks), and invest our money buying expensive European brands (Jaguar, LR, Aston, Volvo). That worked out pretty well for them.

I can NEVER understand why it is that when people find problems in their CORE business, they don't pour all available resources to fix the core. Poor managers always attempt an end run, hail mary, optical distraction. It never works.

Shane Price said...

Baron,

I can NEVER understand why it is that when people find problems in their CORE business, they don't pour all available resources to fix the core. Poor managers always attempt an end run, hail mary, optical distraction. It never works.

Exactly the issue I have with the whole Eclipse saga. All along there have been serious problems with the aircraft...

Go back to first flight, in 2002. It turns out that Vern and his motley crew knew, for at least 6 months prior to same, that Williams were way behind on development. This was hardly surprising, as the EJ 22 was a complex (three spool) design, built 'down' to a strict weight limit.

I'm told, by someone who was there, that Williams had an aircraft almost full time flying back and forth to ABQ with rebuilt/replacement engines. It appears that the basic design needed a lot more effort to make it commercially viable.

Instead of doing the 'right' thing, Vern sent the FPJ aloft with the sole intention of locking in depositors. He knew he was going to have to either change supplier or allow Williams a much longer time to sort out the reliability issues.

Next up was Avio. GA has relied for decades on a COTS approach, but that was too simple for our hero. He wanted glass, he wanted integration and he wanted to control it all. Thinking aviation was a replica of the personal computer business Vern fancied himself capable of re inventing the wheel. The result was a predicable as it is sad. Instead of a major competitive advantage, Avio is now seen as a cul de sac and, indeed, one of the principle reasons not to buy an Eclipse.

Good marketing is a key strength, done correctly. If you allow marketing hype to overtake sales realities, several undesirable outcomes are inevitable. The most immediate is to burn cash, as trade show attendance, advertising, PR departments (and winning a Collier Trophy) are all futile unless you are actually selling. That's the legitimate source of funds for a marketing spend, unless of course the original shareholders have bottomless pockets.

Vern re defined the term 'sale' for GA. Until he distorted it, an aircraft order was something which was backed by a realist deposit, had a serial number attached and a clearly defined delivery date. The 'air taxi' orders that EAC announced were almost all hot air, the deposits were distorted by 6 month 'progress payments' and even serial numbers were allocated at a whim. In short there was always skullduggery in that 'sales' department....

Everyone I've had contact with, who's flown the E500, says the design is fundamentally sound. Even with the P&W 610's fuel burn is low yet performance (range, speed etc) are as promised back in 2000. At it's core the aircraft could have been a game changer. All that messing around with Friction Stir Welding, Phostrex, versions of Avio, aero mods etc were symptoms of the deeper problems. Vern could have focused, but chose to do all those 'extras' that distracted the company and ultimately caused disaster.

Even I could 'smell' the looming crisis. My decision, in early 2008, to continue the Critic's blog was driven by a sense that someone had to keep a spotlight on it. Even it that had to be from 4,000 nm away.

So we can agree, after all, on some of the essential failures at EAC. Lets hope that the good people at EAI don't repeat too many of them.

Shane

eclipse_deep_throat said...

Baron said,
I can NEVER understand why it is that when people find problems in their CORE business, they don't pour all available resources to fix the core.

Well, despite the lack of coffee in my veins.... I'm tempted to try and answer this point. The 'simple' solution is the old "perception is reality" rant. But I think when we idenify any biz with problems in the core, we also have to factor in where they are on the marketing / product life cycle bell curve. Are we talking about a mature industry or just a mature product line? Are we talking about a new product / industry where the early adopters will buy anything the factory cranks out? Compare and contrast the success between Apple's iPod and Microsoft's Zune. My fiancee' just loves her iPod Touch ....to the point where I refer to it as "her vibrator." Me on the other hand, I hate Apple as just an other Evil Technology Company controlled by an Alpha-male personality that will use brute force to get what he wants, especially when he needs a liver transplant. So, under no circumstances would I buy anything from Apple. However, Microsoft has been forced to admit problems in its "core" OS Windows system (Win 95, ME, XP, Vista, Win7, etc.). The most recent Apple commercial is just hilarious in pointing out that Microsoft keeps saying 'this will fix it.'

Admitting that you have a problem just allows your competition to ni**er pile on to your woes. Secondly, and most important, it runs the risk of **eliminating** your cash flow. After watching the recent program "Who Killed the Electric Car," I was truly sick to my stomach. But if GM had come out and said X, Y, and Z is wrong with our current product line (i.e, all our cars/trucks are too dirty), their sales would have dropped like a rock because peoples' perceptions are not established for the potential savior product line. Apple and Microsoft have no choice but to cannabilize their product lines. Even Toyota isn't going to just kill its Tundra truck line and sell nothing but Prius cars. For industrial companies, it takes **DECADES** to establish that kind cash flow; they won't do anything to screw with that.

Unfortunately, we are forced to depend on some enfant terrible companies (i.e., Tesla) to move the old dinosaurs into the 21st Century. Despite EACs egocentric CEO, I'm certain that Cessna would have never built the Mustang VLJ if it were not for the EA500 nibbling at their cash flow...

e.d.t.

julius said...

Shane,

the fpj is small. There is lack of place for charts...
At the end one needs a paperless cockpit or a full glass cockpit with all the reliability issues.
This was not available in 2000.
I do understand why he wanted a glass cockpit and not something like the TBM 700 cockpit.

But building up a new company with a product with new components, wasn't that something the wedge had to deal with some years before?

IMHO Bill Gates knew very well what he did when he gave the pink slip to the wedge. Unfortunately the wedge didn't get the message and tried this type of job on his own.
Pulling the plug who dares to do it?
Selling a tiny jet for less then $1M is this a sound idea? One needed big numbers which never existed...


Julius

P. S.: BMW did it with F1 sports this year. Renault might do it as well...

baron95 said...

Hi Shane,

I think Eclipse did exactly as I said. It is unquestionable that they poured all company resources into their core market.

They bit the bullet and changed engines. They bit the bullet and changed avionics supplier. They bit the bullet and redesigned the airframe for more fuel/aero to meet performance goals.

They were at it relentlessly, if clumsily at times.

How do you know that the EA500 is not light and efficient BECAUSE of FSW and Phostrex vs heavy rivets and Halon bottles? It probably is, at least in part.

The one thing you could argue was not "pouring resources in the CORE business" was the EA400. But I'd argue that, it is the core. When it became clear that SEJs would play a major role in personal jet ownership, it became core to Eclipse and they needed to play there.

baron95 said...

EDT, similarly, Microsoft is pouring all need resources to try to fix Windows and Windows mobile.

They are just being out-executed by Apple.

Apple hit the sweet spot of features/ease of use, great brand/design/marketing, proper balance of US innovation with efficient outsourced manufacturing.

They have reached an escape velocity.

P.S. I always refused to buy/use any Apple products. I had a distaste for their closed ways. I was "forced" to use an iPhone 3GS, and really, you can't deny that the thing is head and shoulders above anything else in the market (as a wholistic product).

Shane Price said...

Julius,

And now Ferrari blame the FIA for BMW, Bridgestone and Toyota.

Despite getting their former F1 team/sporting boss elected President last Friday.

I agree with you about Renault, especially as they control Nissan. The pressure from Japan to ditch the F1 team must be serious, and Renault have withdrawn before, staying on only as an engine supplier.

"May you live in interesting times" indeed....

Back to our very own jet.

Yes, the E500 is small. It's one of the reasons (but not the main one) I prefer to call it a Fischer Price Jet. An argument in favor of a glass cockpit was weight, but the primary focus during the 'selling phase' was pilot workload/safety.

Vern spurned the opportunity (when ditching Avdyne) to go all the way to Garmin. Instead, in a mistaken desire to maintain control, he headed for IS&S and a constellation of others, with a promise to upgrade what turned out to be just over 100 aircraft to this newer, AvioNG spec.

Waste, heaped upon confusion, compounded by hubris.

I suppose the final twist was the inclusion of the Garmin 430W's as 'FMS Lite' (per Ken Meyer) in the AvioNG 1.5 release announcement.

Will EAI have the chutzpah (or the funds) to ditch both, and do a deal with Garmin?

I don't think so....

Will the remaining Avio birds get upgraded to IS&S or might Avidyne offer an 'Entegra 9' for both instead? It's possible, but would require EAI cooperation and a whole heap of approvals.

E.D.T.

I'm pretty sure Cessna would have built what they now choose to market as an 'entry level jet', if only to respond to the same market Vern aimed at. Look how 'easy' it was for them to a) get it flying, b) get it certified and c) sell it. The Mustang plant is one of the few parts of Cessna not under direct threat. If anything, it must be putting it's bigger siblings under pressure in the market, simply because it's cheaper.

And if Vern didn't do it, someone else would have. Bit like your iPod example. Sony 'did' it with the Walkman (yes, I am that old...) so a mobile music player's been around for yonks. I had one of the iPod prototypes for a weekend, just prior to it's public launch. It was junk as it kept crashing, was dog slow and had dismal battery life.

Not anymore.

Often the 'first movers' who pay the price for development are not the manufactures, but those members of the public who are brave (foolish?) enough to put money down for an incomplete product.

I've been that soldier myself. I was at the Newton launch party on the first day of MacWorld Boston. When I got back, I ordered 20, to offer around customers for demonstrations.

I think I got 25 returned, as the damm thing never really worked.

My original 'mobile phone' in 1986 actually had a carrying handle and a 2lb lead acid battery. If you hit someone with it, you could do serious damage.

Early days GSM telephones, I was one of 4 people using SMS in Dublin, on tiny 'single row' phone displays. You really HAD to keep messages short.

I still have my first Macintosh Portable (ha!) and a clatter of other computers from the mid 80's. When you think how rapidly technology has evolved in the past few decades you tend to forget the dead ends.

What happened to UNIX and why are we still using it, often without knowing it?

Where are Wang? DEC? The all conquering 'IBM PC', with it's very own BRS*, to comfort the terrified.

All gone, but happily not forgotten.

Unlike Vern. Who's hasn't gone away, but will, eventually, be forgotten...

Shane
*Big Red Switch, which users were told never to use. Led to the term 'BRST', which was short for Big Red Switch Time. That's what you told someone who's IBM PC-DOS had crashed to do...

airtaximan said...

"They bit the bullet and changed engines. They bit the bullet and changed avionics supplier. They bit the bullet and redesigned the airframe for more fuel/aero to meet performance goals."

ask why?
they made every wrong choice, when in fact their core business as an "integrator" was making systems and supplier choices.

A company which did not understand the RISK associated with making these poor choices, would not be trusted with my family, or even with my business, for that matter.

Dare I call them wreckless?
Yes -

Need I say more?
No -

RonRoe said...

ATM said:

"Dare I call them wreckless?
Yes -"

Didn't they have that one wreck where a guy ran off a runway?

RonRoe said...

edt said:

"Despite EACs egocentric CEO, I'm certain that Cessna would have never built the Mustang VLJ if it were not for the EA500 nibbling at their cash flow..."

I agree. Did you know that the project that eventually became the Mustang started out at Cessna as a single-engine turboprop?

ColdWetMackarelofReality said...

The re-writing of history is too much for me to remain silent.

Starship was not a King-Air replacement nor a Citation competitor - it was an honest to God clean sheet design, that was given (and which exceeded) an 'unlimited' development budget by one of the oft lambasted static and 'never-changing' dinosaurs of aviation.

You cannot condemn the old guard for 'never' experimenting and then attempt to casually toss out the failed experiments - Starship was the single most ambitious clean sheet design ever, period, end of story - more than Sino, more than Adam, more than Eclipse, more than 777. New aero, new materials, new processes, new avionics - it was and remains without peer in terms of what it attempted to do for a single program.

No, I have no dog in this fight, I was not part of that program, but to deny this simple fact is to deny the Sun rises in the East.

The King-Air remains the single most dominant turbine powered aircraft in civilian, military and transport sales, and will IMO remain so until turbo-props are no longer being delivered.

The King Air, along with the Bonanza (another luddite throwback according to some here), are without a doubt, two of the most successful aircraft families ever.

Put the bong down and walk away.

ColdWetMackarelofReality said...

Sorry, also meant to correct the misstatement about Mustang.

Mustang was under development BEFORE Eclipse was announced, along with a new turbo-prop concept.

Also, the P&W 600 family was under development BEFORE Eclipse was announced, this is one of those urban myths that simply will not die, no matter how untrue it is.

So why would P&WC invest in a new engine family without a solid OEM design to use them?

Hint, they wouldn't.

baron95 said...

ATM - there you go again. You are saying that Eclipse made "mistakes". Duh!!!

The question is how did they face their mistakes in engine selction for example. Head on is the answer. It took a lot of guts to dump the Williams mid project for a startup.

Very, very, very, very few, IF ANY, startup could have survived that.

Even Boeing. Just think if the GE90-115 had flopped. Where would the 77L/77W program be today.

Yes, mistakes were made. Duh.

You HAVE to give Eclipse a lot of credit for having survived (even if it was just for 4 years) those Engine and Avionics events (or mistakes if you prefer).

baron95 said...

Hey CW. Not trying to take anything away from Beech on the "innovation attempt" with the Starship.

The FACT remains that the King Airs (and to a lesser extent the piston fleet) was starved of much needed revamp resources because of it.

You are also correct that King Air and Baron/Bonanzas WERE some of the most successful planes.

So was Cadillac, So was Mooney, So was the Walkman. Great successes, world leading products.

So what. They died.

Beech is losing market share for DECADES, ever since the Startship program.

Their piston market share went to near zero. Their native (non Hawker, non rebadged) turbine market share also down big time and going lower.

I think it is not coincidence that Beech products started to lose market share and be less competitive after the Startship "adventure".

It is not rewriting history. Plot Beech's market share and you will see at least a hint of correlation with the Startship being the inflection point.

airsafetyman said...

GAMA third quarter shipment reports out yesterday. Poor Piper only shipped 24 airplanes for a billing of 23 million. They sold seven small recips, nine PA-46 Matrixes and eight turboprop PA-46 Meridians. They sold NO PA-46 Milibu Mirages and NO PA-32 Saratogas. The unpressurized Matrix has apparently killed off both the PA-32 Saratoga AND the Mirage? With the Piperjet on the back burner (if that) Piper HAS GOT TO put Garmin 1000 in all of the PA-46 airplanes and install the Continental TSIO 550 in the recip PA-46s to buy time. It is a quick fix and possibly their last hope.

eclipse_deep_throat said...

Shane said,
Sony 'did' it with the Walkman (yes, I am that old...) so a mobile music player's been around for yonks.

Oh yeah, I meant to also throw Sony in the mix. I finally had my own Walkman in my freshman year of high school ...circa 1986. Now **I** feel old with my 20 yr reunion approaching (class of 1990). Hmmmm, mebbe I can charter an EA500 to fly me to New Jersey...

By 1988, I upgraded to my first CD player. I think it was the Sony D-25 with basic 4x oversampling. And as soon as the $500 mamma of all portable CD players came out, the Sony D-555, I just had to have one: 8x oversampling, the first to have a DSP chip, digital volume control, and even an optical output (Google Sony D-555 if you want to see it). Well ...I was in love. I still have the sucker in my den. And YES, it still works although I cracked the top LCD screen some time ago. Occasionally I will skim the eBay pages to see if I can find someone selling theirs. Last time I checked, it was on eBay for over $200... for a 20 YEAR OLD portable cd player!!

Unfortunately Sony can't make those "audiophile" products today. Mass-market electronics have become disposable... and I'm not sure even a brand like Denon is the same as it once was in 1990. My next door neighbor at the time had a killer Denon system complete with a Sony Betamax (for those too young to know what the heck Betamax is, it was the Blu-ray of the 1980s!). He was a bit nuts with a pre-amp and even a tube -- vaccum tube! -- amplifier.

But to be fair... I do like Apple for their Industrial Design. If I had the money and a 2nd lifetime, I always wanted to go to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. I took a field trip there once back in 1991, but it was way too expensive for "just" a design / art degree. Apple is always ahead of the curve in that regard. I think one of their best designed products was the Cube computer. Not sure about the iPod, especially if its battery is sill permanently soldered. I will be on the floor if we later see any 20yr old first-generation iPods up for sale on eBay for $200.

And to tie this in with EAC, I do think they really deserve kudos for the design of the EA500 and EA400. I'd go on a limb that the 400 is a much better design. I don't know what to think of AvioNG... but I figure there will be at least a few diehards keeping 5 or 10 planes flyable 20yrs into the future, despite the 10K hour life limit...

e.d.t.

airtaximan said...

Baron,

How did they face their mistakes?

They went TU... they were not good at much, except raising money.

Same as HB will, eventually.
Same as all product lines will, eventually...

Do things become obsolete? Yes...

You are the only person I know, who would consider HB a failure and EAC a success.

EAC never actually fixed their problem... the real problem has nothing to do with the details you refer to. In fact, they would have suckers believe they fixed the problems...

This was not a grad scool experiment, it was supposed to be a business. It was a collosal failure, from the intial design, through every atge of execution... more like a NASA aeronautics hole.

ALl of the basic business elements were flawed. They fixed technical problems, one they created or simply failed to see the risk.

After 12 years and $3B, they never even got going... they just delivered unfinished and wildly unprofitable planes.

Shane Price said...

E.D.T.

I'd go on a limb that the 400 is a much better design.

Probably because EAC had damm all to do with the design (or construction) of the only one that was ever built....

It was built in complete secrecy at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia by Swift Engineering and Basis.

That's from Wikipedia, which I can trust in this instance as I know the source.

As it happens, I'm not sure the ConJet would have saved EAC. By the time Vern sprung it on us, the company was past redemption. He might have been able to squeeze a few extra deposits out of the unwary general population, but I understand that he was taken aback by the reaction of existing FPJ deposit holders.

It seems that a good number of them were very pissed at what they saw (correctly, in my opinion) as a diversion of effort and money away from 'their' aircraft. What's also of note is how few people actually fell for it, when it was finally 'announced' as a product and they started taking deposits.

Ken's wife was one of few (less than 100) victims, almost all of whom are still waiting to see if there is any chance of seeing even a small part of the $100,000 they sent Vern.

Which is, by the way, still as sore point. It appears that a few of the, how shall I put this, 'better connected' actually did manage to extract their deposit money, prior to Chapter 11/7.

But that's another chapter, in this long and convoluted tale.....

Coldwet,

I'm happy that you are able to confirm my memory of the P&W and Cessna efforts. I seem to recall that the latter ensured the Mustang was also ahead with TC, PC and EASA.

And Cessna delivered complete, finished aircraft, on time and for the contracted price.

What novel ideas.

I wonder if Vern will ever admit that his distortions have damaged GA, rather than enhanced it?

There are now 30 FPJ's listed, including a very late (s/n 255, at $1,099,000, seller 'motivated') one. There is one real optimist trying to flog a half share (for $750k) so the total listed is 31. That's up from two weeks ago, and includes several listings by EAI themselves.

Shane

BricklinNG said...

ASM

So Piper must put G1000 into the PA46 line, to follow the Meridian? Guess what? They are offering Avidyne R9 in the PA46 line and Cirrus just announced that it will offer R9 as an option in direct competition to the G1000 perspective. Piper has not said a word about G1000 in the Mirage or Matrix, but one would have to assume that it will be forthcoming. In fact, I am surprised that they would announce Avidyne R9 first. What is going on? Are we back to King vs. Narco, where there is real competition for Avionics?

The few people I know who have put R9 into their SR22s say that it is a bit better than G1000; there are STC applications under way to put R9 into other aircraft as well (PA32 e.g.).

So maybe Avidyne took the system that it was developing for Eclipse, perfected it, and may have an opportunity to sell it both to OEMs and to the retrofit market. Who knows, maybe even as an Eclipse retrofit. Wouldn't that be ironic?

airsafetyman said...

My understanding of the Avidyne method of doing business is that they front the costs of the units to the OEM until the airplane is sold where Garmin doesn't. Nothing wrong with that but the customers WANT the Garmin 1000. Since Piper already had the Garmin in the PA-46 turboprop it would be easy to extend it to the recip 46s as well.

There is a demonstrator PA-46-350 Mirage flying with the Continental FADEC TSIO-550 engine, and has been for over a year.

Piper management and sales could begin marketing these two significant upgrades TOMORROW. Instead they stand there like deer frozen in the headlights of an oncoming train.

BassMaster said...

On a side note "X-Plane", a sim for PCs and IPhone has added an E500...and it has a tail number! N414TW (SN 147). Old docs show originally with Arista and Bahama blue stripes but sim has Arista and Sandalwood. N# IS per the old docs though! Little EAC logo on upper vert fin also. Interesting for a minute or two maybe. Oh, and btw they have great detail but forgot the tip tanks!?

Phil Bell said...

New headline post is up!