Post Number: 36
|Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - 08:59 pm: |
Also, as an original Wheeler builder (1989) I fully agree with John Harlow. I know of no reason to panic yet-there will be plenty of time for that. I do wish though, that the factory should have been more forthcoming regarding the accident and that they do a better job of informing builders and prospective buyers as to the state of the company and plans for the future.
To Allyn: Thanks for your past help and support. I know you will land on your feet.
|Posted on Monday, October 13, 2003 - 06:14 am: |
The members of the board of directors are Paul Fagerstrom, Dave Hoag, Dick Scherrer and myself. I am the managing director. As with any company, the dealings with employees are somewhat confidential. Especially when disciplinary action is required it is in the best interest of both the company and the employee if the problems leading up to the action are kept private. I firmly believe Allyn can be a valued employee at another company, and don't want to do anything that would lessen his chance of finding another job. As with any company that makes a decision to terminate an employee, the situations that lead to the dismissal are peculiar to that employee at that company at that particular point in time and probably won't re-occur at another business. I am saddened that this decision had to be reached, but feel it is in the best interests of both Allyn and Express. As anyone who has had employees will tell you, there are two sides to every story, and usually if you learn both sides, you will arrive at the same decision. Allyn is a good man and I wish him success.
As for the future of Express, the members of the Board etc., we contributed much of this information to Bill Copeland, and it is included in the current issue of his newsletter. We have discussed several times putting a press release about the accident in the magazines, on the website etc. but don't really have enough information to make it meaningful. We are taking steps to keep Express going, and quite frankly, I believe that with the management tools that have been put in place since the formation of the board, that Express is stronger now than it has been for the last couple of years. We are continuing to take steps to further strengthen the company, with an emphasis on getting production going in a scheduled, high quality, professional manner. If sales happen right now, that is good, but our emphasis is on getting the production organized so that when we do get new sales, they can flow through the company in a timely, high quality manner, that is pleasing to the customer.
|Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 11:10 am: |
Thank you for your post. I respect your decision to do the right thing for your company regardless of popular opinion. I've had to fire people over the years. The decision is never easy.
My main concern is the future of your company. We want to plunk down around $90k for the kit, builder's assist, and some factory options. However, I will not commit to a purchase until I have a "warm fuzzy" about the stability of the company. If I can't get that warm fuzzy feeling, I have to start all over again choosing another plane like Lancair or Velocity.
You mentioned in your posting that one of the new focuses of the board was improvements in production. Could you or the board please share with us some of your plans for the future and where you see the company going from here? Can you share some of your strategic plan, goals and objectives?
Post Number: 5
|Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 01:14 pm: |
Well I cannot speak for all of you. But I do not see how the factory even needs to be a factor involved in our build process. I am sure that I am not the only one to be thru more than one "factory". The stability seems to be a critical point for them. I mean what is this, number three or four? This is why I have kept building on my own. Their is a reason we are homebuilders, and this is it! God forbid we are missing a rib or something. Trace what it should look like, get some foam, and make your own. This is the attitude that I have and will continue to take until I start to have some confidence in the factory setup again. If any of you cannot understand the whole point of homebuilding then maybe you should go buy a certified aircraft. I for one will finish my wheeler/express/auriga/xyz with or without the help of a factory. If they decide to start doing things that make sense. ie update their website. I mean geez, they still have Larry as the President. Charging huge fees for things like windshields that are available from other vendors. Start selling partial kits again (sore point for many I know, it is a double edged sword). Start marketting. However, I am sure that it is not as simple as us builders think. Its not like we have more collective experience building that the factory or anything, cough cough. All I have to say to the factories is that we have all put faith into them, how about giving something back to us. Selling us plan sets so we can finish our airplanes to factory specs instead of being ad-hoc as some of us have been operating. I cannot justify plunking down huge sums of money and not knowing if I will ever take deliver of what was ordered. I would be more than happy to spend 500-1500 on a full set of plans with schematics and parts sizes. Well enough of my rambling, I am going to take this energy and work on my kit.
Post Number: 36
|Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 04:15 pm: |
Matthew - Glad you like spending your cash for parts you never receive. If thats the way you like to spend all that hard earned income, by all means, more power to ya!
I would rather be certain that when I lay down the cash, I have the normal expectation to receive my parts in good order and in a timely manner - just as I would expect from any company wishing to part me from my cash - 'homebuilding' be damned.
That said, I'd sooner take the train or drive than buy a 'certified to cost a fortune, AD riddled, WWII tin can'.
Post Number: 6
|Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 04:45 pm: |
I would have to partly agree with you. I already have a kit, partial as it is. But I will be damned if I try and order any parts from the factory without a guarantee of delivery. So its from scratch for me the rest of the way in. If you feel you can do the same, 3/5's kits are all over the place. I just picked up another for $3500 a few months back for spare parts and testing. If I had it to start over I would prolly just buy plans and build from scratch. It sounds like you are more into kitbuilding than homebuilding. I do not know of anyone who has been able to "just glue it or rivet it together" from any kit. Some, sometimes much, scratch contruction/reconstruction is needed. Before you get too set on the Express be sure to read the newsletters from day one. Some guy has most of them online now at www.wheelerexpress.com I highly urge you to read them and read newsletters of other kits as well.
Good luck on your kit hunt. One builder to another let me know how I can help. I have no ties to the factory. But I do think the Express is a good aircraft, not without its problems. But what kit isnt.
|Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 04:52 pm: |
I have read these emails with interest. So far as customer experience, I have purchased many parts from EAC to complete my project. Overall I was happy with my interactions with Allyn , and the prompt responses I received from him. I wish him luck in his future endeavors.
As far as Express Aircraft Company is concerned, I think Express first and most should define its mission, and determine what type of customer base they are trying to attract. The impression I get from EAC is that they are trying to market themselves as everything to everybody. Having owned my own business for many years, I donít think this formula is going to work.
One reason I decided to build an Express was that I saw Express as being a Toyota Camry of airplanes. Meaning, that it delivers good performance at an affordable price, and it looks good. Another reason is having people like Bill C, Jerry S, etc, and this excellent web-site(thanks Tom) where you can get help from many helpful & nice folks. To be honest with you, If I wanted to get a sport airplane, I would buy a Team Rocket F-1 or Glassair III. If I wanted a highflying turboprop (or could afford $300-400k), I would get a Lancair IVP.
I would love to see EAC as being a very successful company. I would love to see many fine examples of Express on every air show, or flight line I go to. But I think Express needs to do more/ different things to get there.
I donít want to just nit pick. This forum might not be the best place to address these concerns.
Here are my suggestions:
1- I would send a customer survey out to all existing builders (email, or snail mail them individually), and ask them for their opinion as to how to improve service, and product.
Rule number one of any business is to listen to your customer, give them what they want. I work for Boeing Company. Before Boeing builds an airplane, they get together with their main customers, i.e. United, American, Delta, and JAL, and ask them what they want in a new airplane.
2- Decide on what EAC wants to be. I do not think Express having 3 product lines (tri-gear, retractable, and turboprop) is a good idea (you are spreading yourself too thin).
3- Express should incorporate some of technical suggestions presented in this forum into the technical manual. I suggest EAC to hire Bill C, Jerry S or others like them to help out revise the manual, and have a couple of other people to critique it.
4- Once the survey is done, I would incorporate majority(if not all) of the customer suggestions. The best advertisement for the company is word of mouth, happy customers, and many finished Expresses on the flight line (take a note from RV).
As I said before, when Larry passed away, I and many other builders offered our help. All you have to do is just ask!
Thanks for listening.
|Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 06:41 pm: |
All excellent comments. Thank you for providing us unknowns useful information.
As someone who has followed this design since the late 80's, and is just now in the final process of selecting a kit to build, I do find it a bit alarming the recent events surrounding EAC and their track record with customer service. To me, the tell tale signs of trouble are evident (no marketing, public appearances, lack of web updates, no info on the crash, etc). Having been through the Stoddard-Hamilton (Glasair) failure, plus seeing others like Tango, FourWinds, DreamWings, etc go bankrupt with the same signs, I for one am extremely hesitent to put my $60k + into a company who I feel is heading down the same path. Just won't make that same mistake again.
Please do not forget that the future insurability of your airplane is reliant on the factory surviving. Without a factory to provide replacement parts and tech support, most insurance companies won't insure kit aircraft (or else charge HUGE premiums). This happened to my Glasair friends when S-H went BK.
In the end, I hope I'm proven wrong for everyone's sake. The Express is a nice design and spacious aircraft, and I hope it finds stability at some point. Until then, I won't be betting my money against a bad gut feeling.
Post Number: 37
|Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 07:31 pm: |
Matthew - After re-reading my post, I think it came out a little on the harsh side towards you. This was not my intention and I apologize.
That said - When I oder a 'kitplane' from a factory and pay ten's of thousands of dollars to do so, I fully expect that 'kit' to come as advertised - regardless if I will use all the parts contained therein, modified or not. As a customer, I paid for the kit and the right to do with it as I see fit. To have out of my control what parts I need, or want, to build / modify left up to the seller is not what I paid for. If that was the case, I would buy 'certified'. This is my point. I *did* fully plan to modify the plane to suit my needs and design goals - if and when I purchase it. But, like the trouble you have been running into, having *what* parts I need to build / modify dictated to me by bad business is just not an option I'm willing to pay cash for. So I will take a 'wait and see' attitude for the time being.
Ali - Allyn has been a tremendous help to me in my quest for a plane. I could say that he even went 'above and beyond' the call in his efforts to understand certain aspects of the plane and in formulating my 'plans' for the kit. I just hope that the level of service he apparently has been providing to both kit owners and potential, but undecided, buyers is not what led to his demise.
Point #2 is a *very* good point, IMHO.
Jim B - Being a business owner myself, I understand the reasons behind the decision not to blab to the world the internal affairs of the company, and of reasons for letting others go. I think the main point of contention was in not knowing who was actually behind the decision making at EAC - I myself have had several e-mails with you and not once was it mentioned that you were EAC BOD.
I do feel, however, that whatever is known about the crash should be released. Even if its only 'It appears the fuel pump failed but the NTSB is still investigating and we'll tell you when we know for sure'. At least that would be *something*.
Again, I believe I am still sold on the Express as a plane - I am just going to wait to see what unfolds as the new power struggle insues.
Post Number: 50
|Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 08:13 am: |
I think everyone needs to give Jim, Paul, and the others a chance to get their plan in place before we offer our opinions. The company did not go under as it did with Wheeler and EDI, it just lost a key person and some new ones are in to recover from that and improve wherever possible.
I have a Wheeler/Auriga/EDI combo myself that I purchased from another builder. I have only dealt with EAC since getting my kit for about $5000 worth of parts and have not had any issues.
Gayle or Larry were always quick to let me know if the parts I wanted were on the shelf or if they were going to take awhile to deliver. I then made the choice to order and wait or make my own. I was never charged for a part until it was shipped. Larry even sent me a few older Wheeler parts for my wing shear ties for free that I was missing from the previous builder.
You are going to find opinions on both sides of the support fence with any kit manufacturer. No offense to anyone, but the "bad experience" people usually yell the loudest and longest.
Lastly, anyone who has interest of the Express knew about Larry's accident. Getting the website updated was probably not the most important task at hand. The accident information was in various magazines, on other websites, and in this
For those who were really "ready" to buy a new Express, I'm sure you would have been informed of the situation before you would have sent the check.
It should seem clear to anyone that the accident was powerplant related and was not due to any airframe flaw. The Express design has been working successfully in various forms for 14 years now.
|Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 09:31 am: |
Thank you for your thoughts. I'm glad to hear you have had good experiences with your project. With any company, you will have good and bad, and it's equally important to hear from both.
Having been caught as a victim of a failing kit manufacturer (Glasair), you become very hesitent and sensitive to the signs of concern when they appear again. S-H never told us of their financial crisis when my group sent in our Glasair III payment a week before the doors closed. Another friend lost his deposit on a Tango when they went belly-up shortly after, again, never being told of their crisis. In retrospect, the signs were all there, we just missed them.
As a business owner myself, you must be in touch with the pulse of your market (which I'm sure everyone realizes). Kit manufacturers are obviously no different, and in fact face unique, daunting challenges with all the noted failures. To build that "warm-fuzzy" feeling inside me, you must overcome strong skepticism and objections within this industry.
There are many other points to share, but I don't want to get up on a soapbox here and spoil the forum. My only points are that, to me, there is grave concern based upon the actions and reactions (or lack of) lately. Maybe I'm still a bit tender from the Glasair nightmare (my wife might agree there , but I also know that history has an interesting way of repeating itself, and in many the same ways.
Just my $.02...
Post Number: 9
|Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 09:51 am: |
I've been reading these discussions with interest, and would like to again thank Tom for making this possible. This forum, plus builders like Jerry and others whom are so helpful, have been and are, in my opinion, one of the company's greatest assets (even though they aren't paid and aren't thanked often enough).
I've never met Allen but he was always most helpful on the phone. I've had quite a few problems with my Express (mine was the first factory built through the builder assist program) and he offered to go through it in detail to make sure it was ok and safe to fly. I really appreciated his offer and am hoping that Express might still do this. Anyway, good luck Allen and thanks for the help. I heard that Cirrus is hiring!
Also, best of luck to Paul, Jim, and Ted in keeping the company going and improving it. I know they'll do their best and that they are good people. I really see no reason that this setback forExpress shouldn't make them a better company some day. They surely have their hands full right now so we need to be patient!
|Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 10:23 am: |
Doug Hoff, Jim Butler & I were the first three thru the EAC Builder Assist program. So, we all saw a lot of the growing pains. Through it all, I never doubted that the Express is just a superb airplane & worth whatever effort it takes to complete. I agree with Doug Hoff's comments. We need to give the new BOD time. Having dealt with them all first hand, I feel confident that they will do the right thing for EAC and the builders.
Re factory service: I had an unfortunate nose gear collapse a while back, so I've had some experience needing parts from the factory. Some were back ordered & took a while to arrive. But Larry, Ted & Gayle were up front about timing and delivered the goods. I wouldn't expect any less from them even with Larry's passing.
Tom R. Hutchison
Post Number: 130
|Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 10:35 am: |
Now Gary, you and I started the Builder Assist on the same day. However I think you and Tom were there when I walked in the door the first morning. So its a toss up who has the "honor" of being number 3.
|Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 10:41 am: |
Since you're still in progress, I don't consider you "through" the builder assist yet! Hurry up, will ya! You're missing all the fun flying it.
|Posted on Friday, October 17, 2003 - 02:41 pm: |
Please see the new thread under "New Express Management."