Eclipse Aviation turns to the automotive industry for inspiration in mass producing jets

For his part, Raburn, who as a teenager got his pilot's license before his first car, vacillates between contrition and defiance. "I feel pretty good about the way Eclipse has been run," he says. "I don't feel that I need to apologize to anybody for what has happened." And he hasn't lost his entrepreneurial streak, unveiling a new "Eclipse Concept Jet" at July's Oshkosh (Wis.) air show to test the emerging market for single-engine personal jets.

But he has toned down the rhetoric about running Eclipse like a technology business, touting his expertise as Microsoft's 18th employee and a senior executive at Lotus and Symantec.

In an interview last year, Raburn boasted that Eclipse's just-in-time business model meant it would build an airplane in four days and get paid by a customer 20 days before it had to pay suppliers for the parts, a practice famously employed by Dell with personal computers. "If that's called a dot.com manager, then I plead guilty." Today, he's more likely to compare Eclipse to an automotive line than a computer operation.

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