(Editor's Note -- Below is the complete text of an advisory letter sent Friday to customers of Eclipse Aviation, from company CEO Vern Raburn (shown below, right), detailing the reasons for a regretable slip in the company's planned production schedule through 2007 -- and the steps Eclipse is taking to resolve those issues.)
It is natural for a new airplane company to experience growing pains as it transitions from development to a predictable production rate. However, our journey has introduced far more challenges than we anticipated. As a result, the 2007 Eclipse 500 production schedule has slipped. This is very disappointing to us, as I know it is to you.
Our sole focus is on delivering a safe, reliable, high-performance aircraft to you in the most expedient manner possible.
While there are challenges, which I have outlined below, we have taken aggressive action to eliminate the problems and are making excellent progress. The purpose of this letter is to fill you in on the specific obstacles we have encountered, and let you know what we are doing to remove them.
At a high level, our production issues relate to the manufacturing process, and are not founded in Eclipse 500 design flaws. At their core, these are issues with internal processes and staffing, although parts shortages and quality problems have absolutely contributed to the delay.
Following is a detailed summary of the issues, and the actions we have taken to resolve them.
Functional Test Procedures
Aft Wing Attach Fitting
Component Failure Rates
I would like to offer my overriding view of this situation. We have had a series of unrelated problems ranging from supplier delays, to design glitches, to leadership oversights that have created something of a perfect storm in terms the start up of the production line. Collectively, these issues have significantly impacted our schedule, and challenged us more than ever before.
Of course, our critics are eager to triumphantly say "I told you so!" And perhaps they are right -- for the near term. I have often told you that although Eclipse is not yet as good I believe we will eventually be at avoiding problems, I’ll put our ability to solve tough problems up against that of any other individual or company. Pundits have predicted our demise an almost incalculable number of times. Even in extreme situations such as the Williams International engine failure, we have prevailed. There is zero doubt in my mind that our current challenges will produce a stronger company, and a better product. We’ve done it before, and we will do it again.
One overarching commitment we have not, and will not, waver from is to provide you with the very best and the very safest aircraft possible. Although the delay in deliveries is very frustrating to you (and to the entire team at Eclipse), I simply will not allow anything to compromise the quality of this jet or the safety of our customers.
Our focus now is on catching up, and proving to the FAA that we are ready to take the next step. While it is impossible to predict the exact timing for the receipt of our Production Certificate (PC), we will keep you informed of our progress. It is very important to note that we are working a parallel path with the FAA to produce aircraft under the type certificate while simultaneously working toward PC. Prior to receiving PC, we can and will continue to deliver aircraft by working with the FAA to issue Eclipse 500 Certificate of Airworthiness.
As issues arise, we will continue to move as swiftly as possible to drive to solutions that serve your best interests. In the past, I have been unwilling to discuss problems until I could also provide you with solutions. While we will always strive for this ideal communication, I have come to realize that there simply will not always be an immediate resolution to every issue. Thus, I intend to share updates with you as often as possible, whether they highlight our successes or our challenges.
As always, I thank you for your patience, encouragement and belief in Eclipse.