Eclipse 500 debuts at Jet-Alliance

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Full US type approval received; flight tests on very light jet continue after software glitch interrupts F&R testing

Eclipse Aviation expects to deliver the first production Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ) this week, after receiving full US type certification on 30 September. The aircraft will be handed over to businessman David Crowe and Jet-Alliance, a California-based shared-ownership company that has purchased half the VLJ and will manage it on his behalf.

The second production aircraft, the first for US air-taxi operator DayJet, has flown and is due to be handed over next week, says Eclipse. The Albuquerque, New Mexico-based manufacturer expects to deliver 30-40 aircraft this year, but production plans for next year are under review as a result of the delay in certification, originally planned for March.

Flight tests of the Eclipse 500 are continuing, to obtain certification for flight into known icing, qualify larger wingtip fuel tanks and aerodynamic improvements, and clear a series of software upgrades required to add avionics functionality still missing from the aircraft. Icing approval is planned for early next year, while the software releases will continue over the next six to 12 months, says Eclipse.

Full US Federal Aviation Administration type certification followed the completion of 100h of function and reliability (F&R) testing, which was interrupted when one of the primary flight displays (PFD) went blank in flight. This was the result of a fault that causes the Avidyne display to reboot, says Eclipse chief executive Vern Raburn. The glitch affects screens individually, and the other PFD and a secondary display remain active while the affected unit reboots, he says.

Eclipse halted F&R flying to investigate the display problem, but Raburn says the FAA decided to treat it as a reliability issue and Eclipse resumed certification tests. Only the first few production aircraft are expected to be affected by the display issue, and these will remain within Eclipse’s control until the problem is fixed, he says.

Westlake Village, California-based Jet-Alliance plans to operate the first Eclipse under Part 91 rules for Crowe and for its own marketing purposes until it obtains approval for charter and fractional operations under Part 135. The company is offering 1/16th to quarter shares in the Eclipse under a membership programme.

A 1/16th share costs $95,000 to purchase, $2,500 a month in ownership fees and provides 50h a year at $892 per occupied hour. Including its half share in Crowe’s aircraft, Jet-Alliance has four Eclipses on order and other holders of Eclipse delivery positions have approached the company to sell all or part of their aircraft, says president and chief executive Randall Sanada.

“Four aircraft have been subscribed in southern and northern California and we have taken deposits in Texas, Colorado and Virginia,” says Sanada. Based on deposits, Jet-Alliance will group subscribers geographically then purchase all or part of an Eclipse.