Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Does this surprise anyone?

Eclipse Aviation Files Chapter 11

Well, does this surprise anyone?

Naturally, they are blaming the current economic crisis. Now I don't want to go saying that aforsaid economic crisis is some sort of small time setback, but I'd like to make the point that when the going gets tough, the tough had better have decent business plans. And when you have a fundamentally flawed model -- and are selling a fundamentally flawed product -- and have fundamentally flawed management and customer relations practices -- you are basically screwed no matter what happens.

Eclipse1.jpgEclipse was a company that might have survived a few more years had the original timing worked out. They'd have launched towards the beginning of the boom and managed to get a few hundred products delivered before the carpet was so cruelly yanked out from under them. Odds are a lot of those little jets would have been repo'd, but that's another story. But I think that a longer life (and more sales) would only have lead to their death by other means -- the fundamental design, production, QA, QC, and customer services issues would have had enough time to come (further) to light and killed Eclipse off just as surely, all be it more slowly, than the economy tanking appears to have.

It is a bit like the arguments that circulate around assisted suicide or on nighttime crime dramas: if you take a life of someone who is going to die soon enough anyway, how much of a murder is it, really?

The missed payroll two weeks ago was the final warning bell, the tocsin announcing that the end was mere days away. I am sad for those employees of Eclipse who were toughing it out until the end, hoping that the dream had been built upon firmer footings. But I've been part of a business plagued by systemic strategic, ethical, operational, and managerial issues just like Eclipse. And you could sort those of us at that operation into two camps: those of us who knew the place was a s&*% hole and were looking for a way out and those of us who knew the place was a s&*% hole and were too scared to take action. Either way, each person's destiny was came down to their own active or passive decisions and pointing at the company's flaws will only get you so much pity, not when the writing is on the wall for anyone to see.

So my best wishes to those of you at Eclipse who were trying to keep the dream alive -- and when things rebound and lessons are learned, I hope to see a new product of your efforts in the air. And before anyone goes pointing this out to me -- I know that Chap'11 isn't the true death of a company. Many concerns have emerged, successful and vibrant, from protection. But it is such a dramatic indicator of failure at so many levels that in this case, I do think, it spells the end of Eclipse as we have known it.

But in the meantime, as ever, aerospace remains a harsh mistress.

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