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July 29, 2008
By Thomas B Haines
Roel Pieper, the new acting CEO at Eclipse Aviation, said that soothing vendor relations and assuring customers who canceled Eclipse 500 orders get their refunds are among his first duties.
Pieper, the chairman of the Eclipse board, took over the company July 28 after the departure of founder Vern Raburn. Raburn’s departure was a requirement of the company receiving the next round of funding from investors—funding necessary to get the struggling company to a cash flow-positive situation. A subdued Raburn announced his departure to the media July 28 at AirVenture, noting that “in the world of high finance, these things frequently happen.”
Pieper said that a payment plan to refund deposits to those who canceled orders would be developed and announced in the next few days. A number of position holders canceled their deposits after the recent $500,000 price hike, lifting the price of the VLJ to just over $2 million. Under their contracts, position holders could cancel and get their deposits back; the typical deposit is $150,000. A number of buyers opted to instead transfer their orders to the less expensive Eclipse 400 single-engine VLJ rather than canceling.
Meanwhile, a number of vendors to the Eclipse project said payments to them have been spotty and difficult to receive and they look forward to a more normal payment schedule.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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