Eclipse Aviation Founder and CEO Vern Raburn announced he was resigning from the company effective immediately at a press conference at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 Monday morning.
"Every time I come to Oshkosh I´m reminded of the lyrics to the Emerson, Lake & Palmer song: ´Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends.´ The show is ending for me," Raburn told the stunned audience. "The good news is, we´ve received the first funds in a new round of financing."
Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Eclipse Aviation has been beset by production and certification problems and delays in deliveries for the six-place, all-metal, twin-engine Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ), and Raburn´s resignation was sought by investors under the terms for the new investment in the company.
"I´m not a quitter, and I´m not quitting now," Raburn said. "Do not infer my parting is any indication that Eclipse´s future is in jeopardy. In the world of high finance, these things happen."
Eclipse Aviation gained the attention of the general aircraft marketplace when the company announced plans to build a jet priced at less than $1 million. The Eclipse 500 received its provisional type certificate from the FAA at AirVenture 2006. The aircraft has been widely credited with bringing innovation to the industry.
"I started this 11 years ago," Raburn said of his efforts to build a low-cost jet. "Eclipse was founded on a vision: to use technology to change the value proposition of how planes were built and supported. To change fundamentally the way people travel. I´m very proud of what we´ve accomplished."
Raburn pointed to orders in excess of 2,000 aircraft and deliveries of more than 230 Eclipse 500 VLJs as highlights of the company´s accomplishments. The company also introduced production innovations such as friction stir welding that replaced rivets used in conventional metal aircraft and reduced build time.
Eclipse Aviation Chairman Roel Pieper, who has extensive experience managing international high-tech companies and is also the founder and current chairman of European Technology and Investment Research Center Aviation, Eclipse´s largest shareholder, has been named acting CEO.
"I´ve known Roel Pieper for more than 20 years," Raburn said, in introducing the new CEO at the press conference, describing Pieper as a veteran executive and leader capable of taking the company to the next level of success.
"I respect Vern enormously and commend him for all he has done," Pieper told the audience. "Changes are tough, but they need to happen."
Pieper expressed confidence in the future of the company and its VLJ, calling the Eclipse 500 "what the market needs today," and he assured the audience the company is financially sound and is moving forward. "This is a company that has an order book that is stellar. We need to focus on the delivery of 1,600 aircraft."
As for the Eclipse 400, Pieper said a decision on whether to proceed with production will be made in November.