Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eclipse Failure: The Reckoning Begins

The strange saga of Eclipse Aviation, which filed for bankruptcy this morning, citing debts of more than $770 million, has not been fully told yet. Not by a long shot.

Explanations are required -- for employees at the Albuquerque, N.M. plant, for customers who put down money for orders, for customers who already possess one or more of the approximately 250 Eclipse 500 jets that have actually been delivered since Eclipse announced its start-up 9 years ago.

Originally, the Eclipse 500 very light jet was priced (and heavily promoted) at $775,000. That price was $1.35 million early last spring, and Eclipse raised it to $2.15 million in May.

A year earlier, Eclipse was claiming nearly 2,700 orders and options -- 1,400 of them accounted for by DayJet, the air taxi enterprise that went out of business in September with 28 Eclipse 500s on hand.

There are a lot of numbers to add up -- or subtract. Lawsuits have been filed. A blog, Eclipse Aviation Critic, has been diligently following the saga.

In all of this, with all of the manufacturing and certification problems, where was the F.A.A.? Oh, I forgot. In the tank.


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