The Eclipse watch, cont.

Background: the "air taxi" model, discussed in these posts, this article,  this book, and this website, is showing viability around the world -- especially with companies using relatively inexpensive SR22 propeller planes from Cirrus, rather than faster-but-costlier small jets. Transportation of every kind is under pressure because of worldwide economic collapse and environmental concerns, but in the circumstances air taxis are doing OK.

And the "Very Light Jet" movement, discussed at all the places above and also here and here, has led to the development of several smaller, cheaper jets that are thought to have a commercial future, of which the best known is the Eclipse 500.

Eclipse500.jpg

But oh, my, the poor Eclipse company that actually came up with these new planes. As chronicled here frequently in the past, it has had management struggles and financial crises and legal disputes that have called its existence into question. The latest discouraging news is here and here and concerns such ominous subjects as not meeting the payroll and employees emptying their desks. (Update: more end-of-days news here.)

The general economic and credit chaos that is felling older, stronger companies in more established industries is obviously doing no favors to these startups. And anyone who has seen the life cycle of, say, the computer business knows that Wang, KayPro, Eagle, Altos, Victor, Osborne, and other once-promising firms went down but that the computer industry itself surged forward. So it may be with the Eclipse company and the transportation systems it helped make possible. But this is another sad chapter in the era's economic contraction.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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