Is There Opportunity Amidst the Eclipse Rubble?

Last month, when Eclipse shifted from Chapter 11 reorganization to Chapter 7 liquidation, the logical questions became, "Will someone step in?" and, "What can be done if someone does?" The answer to the first question came in the form of an announcement from a man named Phil Friedman that he would bid for the assets of Eclipse. Friedman is currently CEO of an aerospace company based in Wichita and said he has been closely observing the Eclipse saga for the past year. He has enlisted Eclipse's former CFO Peter Reed as part of the New Eclipse Acquisition LLC team. Friedman said, "It is sad that the company has ended in bankruptcy, but I believe there is an excellent business opportunity going forward if managed correctly." The partial answer to the second question is that Friedman would spend the first two years as owner of New Eclipse updating the 259-aircraft fleet to current type-certification levels. The plan also calls for building the service/support foundation and taking other actions to "restore the brand." Customers would have to pay for the upgrades, and Friedman has said his company will help existing Eclipse operators to find buyers if they are unable or unwilling to pay for the upgrades. The goal is to bring the aftermarket price for an existing Eclipse 500 up to $2 million. Among the questions that remain is what will happen to seven Eclipse 500s said to be near completion on the assembly line-and some 21 other airframes in various stages of completion-with substantial deposits from buyers on the books. Friedman targets production resumption in 2011 at a "modest" rate of about 100 aircraft per year, employing about 400 former Eclipse workers. To read Robert Goyer's "Funny Ideas About Eclipse," click here.