Friday, 20 March 2009

Eclipse 500

It was one of those things. We'd been trying to fly an Eclipse out of Blackpool, but thanks to some communication issues the intended pilot (Dave Jones) didn't hear about it until it was too late, and the aeroplane's 'availability window' was closing fast. I picked up photographer Oli Tennent from Blackbushe and flew the C182 to Blackpool. The weather was fantastic and all seemed to be going to plan as I taxied and parked outside hangar 3. I did a mag check before shutting down and to my surprise the engine died when I switched it to the left (or was it right?) mag, the first time that it had ever happened to me. This kind of spoiled the timetable for the day. I had to find an engineer who traced the problem to a broken capacitor wire. Luckily he had a spare in stock, but by the time it was fitted and the mag re-timed, there was not enough daylight to get back to Blackbushe without having to pay them a fortune to stay late and work the lights. On top of all that, we still hadn't flown or photographed the Eclipse. The flight was hastily rearranged for early the next morning and a hotel booked.
I can't really bring myself to recommend Blackpool, particularly on a Tuesday night in January, but somehow we survived the cliche'd Italian restaurant where we were the only diners, survived the bri-nylon sheets in the nicotine-perfumed room and survived the experience of breakfast at the hotel.
The aeroplane which created the VLJ market was impressive and really easy to fly. The air-to-air photography was a tad challenging. I flew the C182 as fast as I dared with the window open and the Eclipse struggled to slow down enough. Although there remained a few things to sort out with the aeroplane, it was still impressive. But its problems were nothing when compared to Eclipse the corporate entity. They went bust a few times and left lots of people with lots of holes in pockets and bank accounts. Vern Raeburn had failed, Roel Pieper also failed. There's an auction due sometime soon and in the meantime lots of lawyers are looking for lots of ways to get customera' money back and aeroplanes into the air again.