Sunset at Eclipse?

February 26, 2009 by Mike Collins

The news yesterday that creditors advanced Eclipse Aviation’s bankruptcy from Chapter 11 (reorganization) to Chapter 7 (liquidation) when funds for an anticipated sale didn’t materialize was disappointing, if not a complete surprise.

It seemed like only yesterday that Vern Raburn’s upstart set up shop. I had the unique opportunity to look inside the startup in late 2000, when the Eclipse 500 was being designed at the Williams International facility in Walled Lake, Michigan. A sign on a cubicle wall read, “What are you going to do today to reduce the weight?”

A lot has happened since then. The Eclipse team moved to Albuquerque, and the Williams engine was abandoned for a Pratt & Whitney product–among many other changes. Raburn left the company. But today it appears that the sun has set on Eclipse; those cubicles are dark and empty (and their occupants left without at least one paycheck and their accrued vacation pay).

Or has it? There still are assets to be sold. Could there be a buyer in the wings? Time will tell.

Regardless of its ultimate fate, Eclipse and Raburn get credit for creating the very light jet category. Isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery? Alas, history doesn’t always reward innovators.

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