First run of personal jet's Pratt & Whitney PW610 due at year-end as project recovers from engine-related setbacks

Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Eclipse Aviation under which it will build the wings for the Eclipse 500 jet using the advanced friction stir welding technique pioneered by the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based company.

The surprise move is seen as a major endorsement of the personal jet effort, which appears to be recovering swiftly from last year's engine-related setbacks. FHI Aerospace president Norihisa Matsuo says: "We are confident of success for the programme and future business, that's why FHI has decided to have a firm relationship with Eclipse." FHI already produces the wings for Raytheon's Horizon business aircraft and the centre wing box of the Boeing 777. The wings will be built in Japan but Matsuo adds that "...producing [wings] in the USA is a possibility".

Eclipse Aviation president and chief executive Vern Raburn says the FHI partnership is a vital part of its recovery strategy which began with the selection of Pratt & Whitney Canada's PW610 to replace the Williams International FJ22.

Parts for the initial PW610, an approximate 10% scaled-down version of the PW615 Cessna Mustang engine, are being produced by P&WC with first run targeted for year-end. First run of the PW615 is expected within the month. Initial production PW610s are due to be shipped to Eclipse in late 2004 to power the first of seven "conforming" aircraft to be used for the delayed certification programme.

Weight and performance changes associated with the P&WC engine have, meanwhile, driven design changes that are being finalised prior to loading of tools in March. Each engine weighs 34kg (75lb) more fully installed than the FJ22, which with structural increases and around 115kg additional fuel to compensate, means an overall weight increase of some 410kg. The aircraft's useful load also increased by 115kg while take-off performance is expected to improve, as is cruise speed, by around 20kt (37km/h). To cope with an expected increase in stall speed from 62 to 67kt, a new "hard-working" flap is being designed with a 0.61m span increase on each side. The increase is accommodated by reducing aileron span and putting 0.45m of flap beneath the after body. There are firm orders for 2,050 aircraft.

Source: Flight International