Employees Sue Defunct Planemaker For Back Wages
"You might say we're
"Eclipse Aviation was formed with the humble intention of
transforming the aviation industry into something better than it
was before. You can't do something like that by half measures.
That's why we embrace and incorporate innovation, imagination, and
boldness in everything we do. There is an intensity and a passion
here you just don't find anywhere else. We love what we're doing,
and it shows in all we do" -- Promotional material for
The lights have been turned out for good at the Albuquerque, NM
facilities for the company that once was Eclipse Aviation. When --
if -- they're ever turned on again under the auspices of
manufacturing and supporting aircraft, they'll do so with another
company at the switch.
On Wednesday, US Bankruptcy Judge May Walrath "orally granted" a
motion converting what had been a Chapter 11 restructuring effort,
to Chapter 7 liquidation. The Associated Press reports a document
making it official should be signed sometime Thursday.
With the news, the handful of employees who had remained at
the company furloughed some 850 workers February
18 started packing their things. Michael McConnell --
who served in a number of executive roles at Eclipse, eventually
rising the ranks to President of Customer Support -- lamented the
company's fate Wednesday, as he prepared to leave Eclipse's former
headquarters at the Albuquerque International Sunport one final
"It's unfortunate. It's tragic. It's horrible for all the
employees," said McConnell.
As ANN reported, secured debtors in Eclipse
forced the company to convert to the Chapter 7 proceeding last
week, after it became clear that funds promised by former Eclipse
CEO Roel Pieper to purchase the company failed to materialize.
Earlier this year, Pieper testified before Judge Walrath that
funds were in hand for European-based EclipseJet Aviation
International Inc. to purchase Eclipse... but for reasons as yet
undetermined, the Russian-backed financing for the deal never
materialized. Pieper has all-but gone into hiding since the sale
A trustee to manage the Chapter 7 process should be named by the
end of the week. Eclipse now has 15 days to file names and
information about its unpaid debts and creditors; within the next
month, Eclipse must submit a file report and account to that
trustee. What happens after that remains unclear. So far, two
entities have come forward with plans to buy at least some parts of
the defunct planemaker.
Eclipse Services and Support LLC, a
cooperative backed by Linear Air CEO Bill Herp, intends to bid on
technical and support assets to keep the existing fleet of 259
Eclipse 500 very-light jets in service... while aerospace executive
Phil Friedman has plans to purchase all of Eclipse, under the
auspices of his company
New Eclipse Acquisition LLC, to both provide
support to existing owners and to eventually start producing new
Those efforts -- Friedman's in particular -- represent some hope
for the workers left without jobs when Eclipse closed up shop...
though McConnell cautioned workers to not hold their breath in
hopes of a last-second Hail Mary pass.
"My guidance to all employees is to take care of your family,
take care of yourself. There is no silver bullet," he said.
Also on Wednesday, two former Eclipse workers sued the company,
claiming they were laid off without being provided required notice.
Both Annette Varela of Albuquerque and Albany, NY-based John Dimura
claim there was ample evidence the company might have foreseen the
furloughs and closings, and should have provided 60-days written
notice of their terminations under the federal Worker Adjustment
and Retraining Notification Act.
KRQE-13 reports the employees have asked the Bankruptcy Court in
Delaware to consider their lawsuit a class-action motion, so other
laid-off Eclipse workers may be able to claim back pay and
attorney's fees. Their lawyer, Jack Raisner, admits their lawsuit
is "an uphill battle"... but they're still going to try.
In the meantime, as of Wednesday night the Eclipse Web site --
where ANN found the quote that began this story -- remains up. But
the company behind it is officially no more.