Monday, April 30, 2007

Like Watching a Prize Fight.

Tonight in my nightly scour of the Internets, I came across this wonderful headline:

Eclipse Aviation Receives
Production Certificate


Jump for joy! It's about time. I was giddy with excitement, getting ready to write a very positive post about how – finally – Eclipse's problems are fading away, and soon they will be cranking out -500s at a record pace, followed by dozens of deliveries to happy position holders who have been more then patient for too long.

I was prepared to write that I have always been praying that Eclipse will pull it all together, put their well-publicized issues behind them, and get on with their mighty task of starting the VLJ revolution. I was getting set to launch a big post saying the VLJ movement is officially underway when I read the following on ANN:
Grievance Accuses FAA Of 'Rushing'
Eclipse 500 Type-Certification


The union representing the FAA's inspectors and test pilots says the process of issuing the Eclipse 500 type certificate was rushed, and that its members were not allowed time to do their jobs properly. A grievance has been filed against two FAA inspectors, days after Eclipse announced it received an FAA production certificate for the 500. It was originally filed in October of last year, according to Tomaso DiPaolo of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
But Avweb is reporting that DiPaolo also said he was “not aware of any influence on Eclipse's part.” Instead, it's reported that he believes the FAA's push might have had something to do with the FAA's new "pay for performance" mandate.

Now I have been going back and forth with my feelings about the many trials and tribulations that Eclipse has had to endure on their way to a full production and delivery schedule. One day, I am over the moon about their chances for success, and the next I am trying to chase away negative thoughts that they may not be able to stay alive. Watching this company give birth to their -500 has been like watching a prize fight, with Eclipse bobbing and weaving, punching and then getting punched, over and over again. Each time they take one in the face, this company shows their grit by sucking it up and landing more body blows.

This latest NATCA grievance and the allegations that it has brought to light might slow down Eclipse yet again, but I believe they will eventually sort it all out and win what many perceive to be a battle for survival. But I say this as an outsider, not as a position holder with a dog in the hunt. If I had been mailing off deposit checks to New Mexico and pacing the floor waiting for my jet, this latest news might really tick me off.

Or not. This grievance may be nothing more then union b.s., or it might be the tip of the iceberg exposing much greater problems. Like everything out of Eclipse these days, we'll really never know, so all we can do is wish them well and wait for their fleet to start racking up hours and creating a safety record that as of today does not exist as a production fleet. Because once several hundred -500s start becoming daily drivers for the Dayjets of the world, only then will we see if any chickens will be coming home to roost.