Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn announced Jan. 14 an “expansion” of his company’s partnership with European Technology and Investment Research Center Aviation (ETIRC), which has invested “substantially in excess of $100 million” in the Albuquerque-based VLJ builder.
The investment makes ETIRC the largest shareholder in Eclipse, according to Raburn.
ETIRC already was the sales, customer service, maintenance and flight training provider for Eclipse in Eastern Europe and Turkey. Under the new agreement it will add Western Europe and the British Isles to its territory, Raburn said.
ETIRC also gained the right to build Eclipse 500s within its marketing region. The company is discussing possible locations for a plant. The Russian city of Ul’yanovsk currently is the leading candidate, said Roel Pieper, ETIRC’s CEO. Ul’yanovk is on the Volga River, some 500 miles east of Moscow, and is best known as the city where Lenin was born.
“Entrusting the expanded region of Europe to ETIRC in this manner represents a significant acceleration of our business plan,” Raburn remarked. “Expanding our relationship with ETIRC will rapidly increase the impact of the Eclipse 500 in this region, and position us to meet the needs of our growing number of customers outside of North America.”
With his investment in Eclipse, Pieper became the company’s non-executive chairman. Raburn remains its president and CEO.
ETIRC Aviation, based in Luxembourg, calls itself a creator of “virtual jet networks for airlines and aviation entrepreneurs.” A major driver of VLJ marketing in Europe, in partnership with Eclipse it plans to offer “a full range of white-label VLJ services to virtual jet network and jet taxi operators, including a real-time operations system, fleet financing, VLJ leasing, business consultancy, pilots, training programs and VLJ maintenance centers,” Pieper explained.
Like Raburn, Pieper came into aviation from the computer industry, having served in executive positions at Tandem Computers, Compaq and Philips before founding ETIRC. His company has offices in Moscow, Istanbul and Cyprus in addition to its headquarters in Luxembourg.
The announcement probably puts paid to widespread speculation that Eclipse was about to close its doors, generated by the company’s rather frantic-seeming scramble for funding from its existing customers, in December. Offering a guarantee of lower prices in exchange for larger deposits, Eclipse secured more than $30 million within a few weeks. Reports of its death were greatly exaggerated, as humorist Mark Twain said of newspaper stories announcing his demise many years before the actual event.