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Wed, Nov 14, 2007

Oh My, Dubai! Eclipse Signs 12 Plane Deal With DAE Flight Academy

News Comes As Tail Vendor Sues Company For Failure To Make Payments

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 11.14.07 1611 EST: In reference to the Hampson law suit detailed in this story, ANN reached Eclipse CEO and President Vern Raburn (still making his way back to NM from Dubai), who expressed some dismay at Hampson's actions.

Citing a number of problems (that ANN has been aware of previous to this date) Eclipse has experienced with this vendor, Raburn stated that, "It's a shame that Hampson resorts to obfuscation and lawsuits when the fact of the matter is that they haven't done what they promised."

Raburn detailed a number of shortcomings in the working relationship between Hampson and Eclipse and indicated that the company had to expend significant resources in order to use the compondents provided them by this vendor.

"We spend way too much time fixing what should have been done right to begin with," added Raburn.

Original Report

On Wednesday, Eclipse Aviation announced a 12-plane deal with Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Flight Academy, the first ab initio training customer for the Eclipse 500 -- as closer to home, one of its suppliers filed a lawsuit claiming they haven't been paid for parts supplied for the very-light jet.

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise Flight Academy will take zero-time pilots and trains them in Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA). Students will start their training in a Cirrus SR22, progress to an Eclipse 500, and finish with a type rating in a multi-crew jet transport aircraft. DAEFA plans to train thousands of candidates to fill the shortage of airline pilots in the Middle East, Europe, India, and North Africa.

Deliveries are slated to begin in 2008, according to the Albuquerque-based planemaker.

"We are extremely excited that DAE Flight Academy will be using Eclipse 500s for its innovative flight training program," said President and CEO of Eclipse Aviation Vern Raburn. "We see tremendous future growth and sales in the ab initio training market for international airlines.  The Eclipse 500's built-in reliability combined with the highly-advanced Avio NG total aircraft integration system makes this an ideal training aircraft for the new ICAO Multi Crew Pilot License (MPL) and a great tool to prepare for the airline training."  

DAE University plans to open the Flight Academy in March 2008 in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah at the site of a former air force base. It will be the first school of its type to use the Eclipse 500 and the program will offer a 12-month course starting every month with up to 400 students in training at any given time.

Dr. George H. Ebbs, president and CEO of DAE University, called the Eclipse 500 "a perfect fit" for the program.

"This aircraft offers tremendous value considering that it is a highly-reliable, twin engine VLJ with advanced electronics and tightly-integrated systems, at a very low cost," said Ebbs. "We want to offer our students the best education available and prepare them to become successful airline pilots. We believe Eclipse's very light jet is the best choice to help us achieve this goal."

The news wasn't entirely rosy for Eclipse on Wednesday, however. The Albuquerque Journal reports Eclipse has been sued by U.K.-based Hampson Aerospace, alleging Eclipse failed to make required payments for empennage assemblies produced at Hampson's facility in Grand Prairie, TX.

A spokeswoman for Eclipse told ANN she could not comment on pending litigation, but added Hampson remains a supplier for Eclipse.

Hampson has been an Eclipse vendor since December 2003. Last month, the company earned the contract to provide empennage assemblies for the upcoming HondaJet.

The suit was filed Tuesday in state district court in Albuquerque... and raises more eyebrows regarding the planemaker's current state of affairs.

As ANN reported, last month Eclipse laid off an unspecified number of workers -- said to be between 100-150 employees, mostly temporary hires -- reported by multiple outlets as due to delays in ramping up to full-scale production of the Eclipse 500. To date, the planemaker has delivered fewer than 100 aircraft -- far fewer than the estimated 1-2 planes per day the company originally forecast.

Rumors of Eclipse's financial solvency were furthered last week, when Pennsylvania-based financial firm Boenning & Scattergood remarked Eclipse may need more money -- and soon -- to continue operations.

"Our due diligence suggests that Eclipse Aviation has not yet reached the one plane per day production mark, and the company may be forced to seek an additional round of financing to make it through the remainder of 2007," said the report, according to the Journal.

Those statements came as the firm downgraded its rating for shares in Eclipse vendor Innovative Solutions & Support, stating production ills will likely affect IS&S's revenues this quarter. IS&S is the primary vendor for the second-generation Avio NG avionics system in the Eclipse 500, which will replace a system originally produced by avionics maker Avidyne.

An Eclipse spokesman told the Journal the suggestion the planemaker would need more money to last through 2007 was "absolutely untrue," and asserted the company was not in financial trouble.

FMI: www.eclipseaviation.com, www.hampson-industries.plc.uk/, www.dubaiaerospace.com


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