Eclipsing Reality?

Eclipsing Reality?

I am going to stick my neck out, buck the trend, and risk embarrassment most dire. I hereby state it, out loud and in public: I do not for one second believe the Eclipse jet is ever going to be produced to meet stated specs and price. Admittedly, this comes from the same fellow who predicted the failure of the Lear, the Citation, and the Caravan, but there is a difference.

By Ralph Hood

June 2001

In those cases, I didn’t doubt that they could build the product. I doubted they could sell it. In the case of the Eclipse, it is the other way around; if they can build it they can sell it like mad, but I don’t thing they can build it.
I have just studied info on the net that insinuates, if it doesn’t outright state, that this airplane is a done deal, but it ain’t. No airplane really exists until it is certified, produced, and delivered to customers who are happy with it.
Aircraft tend to gain weight and price and lose speed somewhere between concept and the finished product as delivered to the customer. This has been particularly true of "breakthrough" aircraft.
Am I the only one who remembers standing outside at NBAA in Dallas way back in the ’80s, watching Burt Rutan’s scale model of the Beech Starship fly over? Remember all the hoopla on that one? There were some fine aircraft on display at NBAA that year, but the non-existent, yet-to-be-built Starship stole the show with one flyby and the big announcement. You couldn’t talk to people about real airplanes; they were too excited about the Starship.
How about the LearFan? Remember that? How about Jim Bede’s promises of aircraft that seemed to defy the laws of physics, all at a price the little people could afford?
Remember the Wing Derringer, the Windecker Eagle, and the Burns? You don’t remember the Burns? Hell, I saw the prototype myself, and came away feeling sorry for Cessna, Beech, and Piper because the Burns was obviously going to put them out of business.
Does anybody remember Continental’s Tiara engine? Or the Piper Brave that used that engine?
But Ralph, you might well say, some of these products failed simply because they lacked the financing to get to market. The Eclipse doesn’t have that problem. No, and neither did the Beech Starship. They threw enough money at that thing to buy OPEC.
Others point out to me the truly substantial people behind the Eclipse, and it is without a doubt a most impressive group. In fact, the people behind it — Harold Poling, Vern Raburn, Dr. Sam Williams, Kent Kresa, Alfred Mann, Chris Finnoff, and Jack Harrington, to name a few — are captains of industry and masters of aviation technology. On the other hand, Bill Lear was solidly behind the LearFan, and he had right impressive credentials himself.
This is another of those times that I honestly and sincerely hope to be proven wrong. I would love to see the Eclipse meet specs and hold the price, but I just don’t believe it’s possible. et. The Eclipse doesn’t have that problem. No, and neither did the Beech Starship. They threw enough money at that thing to buy OPEC.
Others point out to me the truly substantial people behind the Eclipse, and it is without a doubt a most impressive group. In fact, the people behind it — Harold Poling, Vern Raburn, Dr. Sam Williams, Kent Kresa, Alfred Mann, Chris Finnoff, and Jack Harrington, to name a few — are captains of industry and masters of aviation technology. On the other hand, Bill Lear was solidly behind the LearFan, and he had right impressive credentials himself.
This is another of those times that I honestly and sincerely hope to be proven wrong. I would love to see the Eclipse meet specs and hold the price, but I just don’t believe it’s possible.

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