10:54 PM

A step back for Eclipse?

I've always been one of Eclipse Aviation's biggest fans, and have stood behind anything Vern Raburn and Co. have done. When I needed help with a photo shoot involving an Eclipse 500 this past summer back at Oshkosh, it was Eclipse's Media front man, Andrew Broom, who helped me out in a very professional manner. They are a class act, and I hope that one day Eclipse Aviation becomes a worldwide powerhouse, selling jets as fast as they can make them.

I have no position in their delivery schedule, no “dog in this fight” so to speak. But I can think of about 2,500 people who want very much to see some very positive news come out of Albuquerque very soon. It's those same people – who have all dropped deposit money on their E500 delivery position – who will not view this as a good thing:

Eclipse has parted ways with avionics supplier Avidyne, who provided the pilot interface to Avio, the jet's integrated electronic flight control and information “Central Nervous System”. Avidyne was the supplier for such mission critical parts as the dual Primary Flight Displays and Multi Function Display, keyboard, autopilot control panel, and navigation and communication radios.
Eclipse stated recently that they have been “working with other suppliers behind the scenes for months” and said the transition would have no effect on aircraft production or delivery. But a story found today on amtonline.com states that it's Avidyne that Eclipse blames for several delays in getting the E500 to market.

That same story lists Avidyne as the supplier of Avio's software, which would scare the hell out of me if I were waiting patiently for my Eclipse to pop out of the factory door. In this high-tech world that we live in, having to switch software – the brains behind the entire jet – can never be easy or quick. Doing that while you are anxiously waiting for FAA's green light to crank up production on a brand new jet design sounds like a nightmare scenario.

When will Eclipse start delivering their 500? That is a question that private owners and also the air taxi industry wants answered right now. I can only suspect that the patience of those 2,500 buyers must be wearing thin, and the news of a Eclipse/Avidyne split at such a critical time in Eclipse's history can only be viewed as a step backwards.

This news begs me to ask this question: Would you write Eclipse a check tomorrow to buy into a delivery position north of 2,500? Or, would you hold off and play the “wait and see” card? That may be one of the hardest decisions ever made for those future bizjet buyers who were ready to grab a sack of cash and jump into the VLJ horse race yesterday, and now might be re-evaluating their options.

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