Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Trouble in the VLJ World?

DayJet's quiet announcement (see yesterday's post) that it is laying off a portion of its work force (100 out of 260 employees, I am now told) and cutting back crucial expansion plans comes amid some apparent signs of disquiet at Eclipse Aviation, the Albuquerque , N.M. company that developed and is producing the $1.6 million Eclipse 500 very light jet.

The announcement was handled so softly that it barely gets mentioned in the mainstream media today.

I've always been amazed at the order figures Eclipse and DayJet, its major customer, have announced. DayJet, which has 28 Eclipse 500s in hand, is on the books for 239 firm orders and 70 options. Eclipse, founded by Vern Raburn, claims it has more than 2,600 firm orders. A total of 158 Eclipse 500s have been delivered.

The big question now is the validity of blue-sky claims about the potential of the very light jet industry. The FAA -- never one to shirk from predictions that enhance its importance as the regulator of the air lanes -- has said that 4,000 very light jets will be in the skies by 2015. In March, PMI Media published a forecast predicting that 7,659 very light jets will be delivered by 2016, which strikes me as a remarkably precise figure for a prediction.

This blog, Eclipse Aviation Critic NG , reports on trouble within Eclipse.

Eclipse apparently is concerned. The Albuquerque Journal, the hometown newspaper, reported on April 22 that Eclipse "has asked a California court to force the unmasking of anonymous commentators who posted on Web sites covering the company."

The Albuquerque paper said that a subpoena was issued by a California Superior Court in Santa Clara County ordering Google to "provide names, addresses and other information for about 28 commentators" to the blog.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic magazine is out this month with a hagiography on DayJet and Eclipse by Jim Fallows, who's been writing trenchantly for many years about aviation alternatives, but who may have been caught out (damned magazine lead times!) too far in front of a story that may be banking steeply.


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