The financial meltdown has hit the business aviation industry hard and has been complicit in the demise within the past nine months of two independent airframers Eclipse Aviation and Grob Aerospace. Both companies fell into liquidation due to the funding drought but could be on the brink of resurrection if willing investors are prepared to dig deep into their pockets.
Eclipse Aviation, manufacturer of the Eclipse 500 very light jet, was forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy in March by its creditors, leaving hundreds of deposit holders facing huge debts and forcing a cacophony of start-up operators to abandon their plans for an Eclipse-based air taxi venture. The move came after attempts to sell the assets of the VLJ developer to a new company formed by chief executive Roel Pieper dragged on longer than anticipated.
Now a number of entities - including a group of which Pieper is a member - are seeking to purchase the assets of the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based airframer that had delivered only 259 before its collapse. A trustee is expected to decide on the fate of the company within weeks.
Grob Aerospace's former lead creditor, meanwhile, is hoping to the sell the assets of the SPn business jet to new investors and has appointed the company's former chief executive Niall Olver to draw up a business plan and assemble would-be buyers of the light business jet programme.
Development of the SPn was halted last year when the company's major investor pulled out of the venture - subsequent attempts to raise investment for the programme failed and Grob was declared insolvent in November. Germany's H3 Aerospace relaunched the old Grob Aerospace training aircraft business under the name. Olver says the SPn, which is parked at Grob's former facility at Tussenhausen-Mattsies, Germany, is "still phenomenally well placed in the market and there is still a great deal of interest in the product".
Before Grob's collapse it secured around 100 orders for the €5.9 million ($8.7 million) aircraft. "Of these, 65 are still willing to go forward if we get the programme back on the road," he says. Olver adds that the new entity "may seek third party expert help" with the certification process, probably through an existing OEM.