Friday, July 31, 2009

ABQ Prepares to Double Down on Eclipse

Updated: With audio from news conference.

The word
this afternoon from City Hall is that a new group of investors wants to restart Eclipse Aviation in the city.

The assets of the Albuquerque jet maker, which laid off around 800 employees in February when it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, are set to be purchased by a new company called Eclipse Aerospace.

That group is made up of several people that were involved with the old company, including jet owners and customers still waiting for their order to be filled. They have put down $5 million in earnest money to buy the company and re-open it in Albuquerque where hangars are already available.

The new bid for the company has been submitted and a hearing for the motion will be held August 10 and the new company could be up and running as soon as August 24.

Albuquerque Mayor Martin J. Chávez said Friday the new company plans to potentially rehire hundreds of Eclipse employees.

It's unclear what incentives the city may be offering the Eclipse Aerospace, but Chávez said he's 98 percent certain that Eclipse has been saved although there are few details:

This is extraordinarily good news for the city of Albuquerque. I believe it will come to fruition.
Double Eagle Land At Double Eagle Airport Could be Lost.

Weeds and an empty parking lot are the only things left at the former
Eclipse Aviation Training Center built on donated land at the Double Eagle Airport.

In 2005, a three-way land exchange, with the city, state land office and BR Ranch Ventures, LLP gave Eclipse Aviation 150 acres of prime space at Double Eagle Airport to build a manufacturing plant. That land is set to revert to a commercial developer for a measly $10,000, or $66 an acre according to a Special Warranty Deed filed with the City Clerks in February 2005. William Rogers and John Black donated the land after making an exchange with the city. Terms included getting the land back from Eclipse if no manufacturing plant was built by January 2010, or buying it back if the company filed bankruptcy which it did earlier this year.

We visited the site today. The only building there is surrounded by weeds. Even the computer harddrives used in two flight training simulators have been removed by a former supplier. However, the company's primary hangars South of the Sunport are empty and could rehouse the new group with minimal preparation.

While New Mexico's State Investment Council had invested some $19 million dollars in the original company, it should be noted the original company brought hundreds of people to the state who spent money they earned at the company around the community, buying houses, cars, eating out and paying taxes. One estimate says the spending, by employees and the company, may have contributed up to $150 million dollars to the state's economy in roll through money.

Will Former Employees Return to Work?

770KKOB's Michael Jasso reports some former top-level Eclipse employees could return to work within the next two weeks. This February more than 800 employees were laid off after having paychecks delays.

Last August the jet's certification came under scrutiny by the FAA and the U.S. Congress but was deemed fit to fly in September 2008

According to aviation industry reports, in June this year, Eclipse 500 jet's had their EASA Type Certificate suspended, striking a potential blow to the value of Eclipse Aviation's intellectual property assets that will be sold at the August bankruptcy auction.

The group of Eclipse Aerospace investors includes owners of Eclipse jets. They are said to be very confident this will go through. The business would operate in the already leased buildings at the Albuquerque Sunport and Double Eagle II Airport.

Chávez said there is a chance that several foreign governments might offer competing bids. The city doesn't want that to happen because then the assets and jobs would go elsewhere.

KRQE's webpost notes several aviation trade publications have reported that the first priority of Eclipse Aerospace would be to provide much-needed service for the existing fleet of 260 Eclipse jets sold before the original company failed, including buying back multiple jets from dissatisfied owners.

Starting up new production then would happen sometime in the indefinite future.

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1 comment:

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