Vern Raburn left the helm at Eclipse Aviation accompanied by a two-minute standing ovation from those in attendance at the company´s Monday press conference at AirVenture 2008."These things happen in the world of business," Raburn told ANN after the applause wound down.
Raburn confirmed his departure from the Albuquerque, NM-based planemaker was a condition for securing the latest round of financing to keep the company afloat as it strives to turn a profit, which Acting CEO Roel Pieper said he expects will occur "sometime early next year."
Raburn will continue to be involved in Eclipse, but not directly. He was named Vice-Chairman of ETIRC Aviation, the Dutch company that is Eclipse´s sole European distributor, and a significant investor in the company.
Opinions about Raburn´s departure ranged from words of praise for his performance at Eclipse... to cheers that a new regime is now in place.
"I hope Vern gets the credit due him as the driving force that made VLJs possible," said Greg Scott, who says he was the first non-professional pilot type-rated in the Eclipse 500. " He is an historic figure."
Eclipse 500 Jeffrey Robert Moss had high praise for his airplane. "I have 400 hours in the Eclipse 500 and I love the airplane dearly," he said. "I came in yesterday at FL410 from Van Nuys with one fuel stop in five hours."
Jon Paris is with Strategic Aeronautics, the company which provides the Avio Flight Bag. "We were notified this morning" of Raburn´s announcement, he said. "The compay was built on Vern´s vision, and it will be interesting to see where it goes."
"The house Vern built is not going anywhere," added Strategic´s Eric deRiel.
Another group of Eclipse pilots, who asked not to be identified, said they were happy to hear Raburn would no longer be affiliated directly with Eclipse.
"We´re in shock, but we´re glad to hear it," said one. "Someone needed to come in and address the customer service end. Vern was running a stranglehold on the organization, and because of it lost a number of talented people."
Somewhat ironically... Raburn´s departure comes as the company displayed what some would call the first "fully conforming" Eclipse 500, outside its booth. Serial number 266 is the first production bird mounted with Avio NG avionics including twin Garmin GPS 400Ws, in addition to recently-certified modifications to comply with flight into known icing (FIKI) approval.