If enough orders come in for the Eclipse 400, it will enter production in 2011. "If there's not sufficient interest we'll give their (deposits) back," says acting CEO Roel Pieper, who took over in a surprise move announced Monday.
"The 400 will get a very specific program. It will not be allowed to influence the 500 in any way," he continues.
Its order book was opened to AirVenture attendees Monday and to the world Tuesday. "If you purchase during AirVenture," says Spokesperson Alana McCarraher, "You get $30,000 in free optional equipment upgrades," she says. The purchase price is $1.35 million.
Tuesday's flying display featured a 400 which some say was more dazzling than the Rocket Racing League demo just before it.
It's a race for certification in Europe, with between 300 and 350 orders for the Eclipse 500 very light jet waiting on approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency. "We believe it is weeks away from a resolution," states Pieper, noting that certification and resolution are not the same.
One holdup is the complexity of its AVIO NG avionics, which breaks new ground with integrated functionality to ease pilot workload and act "as a virtual co-pilot."
The FAA may approve that system this summer, opening the door for EASA. The most noticable change is two Garmin GPS 400W units that provide WAAS, optional Stormscope and numerous other features and replace the pilot and co-pilot keyboards which will become obsolete. June 25 brought certification for flights into known icing conditions.
A 33 percent price increase to $2.15 million hasn't dented the 2,600 aircraft orders worth almost $3 billion, though customers have until the end of September to request a refund."
Delivering aircraft quickly enough has been problematic, but Pieper sees a boost ahead.
"We will get about 1 to 1.2 over the next five months." Profitability will be reached with 1.7 to 1.8 deliveries per day in a seven say week. The rate this year has lingered below one per day.
"The entire layout of the factory was built to get to 2.0 without problems. I think the whole goal of getting to 1.7, 1.8 is a reasonable goal. It doesn't say 2 and a half.
I don't want to overstress it, but that will give us an opportunity to get to profitability in Q1, March of next year," adds Pieper.
More than 2,000 employees are now working at the Albuquerque plant and the service centers in Albany and Gainesville, with more being hired. As production increases, so does the number of pilots who need Eclipse's training program. McCarraher says training facilities are growing, too. "We have two full motion simulators and two flight Training Devices, which are going to become full motion. One by the end of this year, and the fourth by the first half of next year."
Within two months Pieper's vision for the company will alter the 10-year-old company’s priorities and employee roster after he replaced former CEO Vern Raburn.
"He has built up the company. Now you have to move to a different stage in the business where it's about operations, it’s about quality, it's about efficiency. The board, the investors, the note holders, everybody has agreed that this is the moment to do that," Pieper says.