By Ian Twombly
Eclipse Aviation has entered into a new partnership with Amsterdam-based ETIRC Aviation that will expand the very light jet maker’s reach throughout Europe.
In addition to the European investment company now being the largest equity investor, ETIRC (European Technology and Investment Research Center) CEO Roel Pieper will serve as the non-executive chairman on Eclipse’s board. With what Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn on Jan. 14 called a “fundamental investment in the company” of more than $100 million, ETIRC will represent Eclipse in all of Western and Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Russia. The company will be responsible for sales, service, maintenance, and training there.
ETIRC plans to establish an assembly facility within its region. The Russian city of Ulyanovsk so far is the top candidate. The first airplane is expected to roll off the line in late 2009. Raburn went on to stress that this is “not an outsourcing strategy” but rather a “fundamental expansion of Eclipse.” In fact, said Raburn, Eclipse has already hired back most of the employees it laid off throughout the year and plans to hire an additional 700 workers for its Albuquerque, N.M., headquarters this year.
Even though it delivered 103 airplanes in its 12 months of production, Eclipse is coming off a difficult year in which Raburn said it was no secret that the company didn’t reach its production goals. Though Raburn blames suppliers for much of the struggle over the past few years, he said, “Our lack of production is our fault.” The company’s eventual goal is to produce four aircraft per day, but it is currently pushing less than one per day out the door.
January 15, 2008