Continued delays at two suppliers have pushed back certification of the Eclipse 500 very light jet by several weeks from the end of June, the manufacturer says. Final flight tests have been held up awaiting US Federal Aviation Administration technical standard order (TSO) approval of production-conforming equipment.

“The new date is driven by two vendors getting their TSOs, and they have missed every single date so far,” says Eclipse Aviation chief executive Vern Raburn. “But the delay will not turn into months. It will be anywhere from a couple of weeks to four or five.”

Eclipse blamed missing its original 31 March certification date on delays at the same unnamed vendors (Flight International, 3-9 January). “We are down to the last 6% of airframe test flights, but some tests require fully conforming hardware and software, and a TSO is the FAA’s stamp of approval,” says Raburn.

Until the suppliers get TSOs on their systems, Eclipse cannot begin the final 150h of function and reliability (F&R) testing and cannot get a type certificate on the aircraft, Raburn says. The delays occurred because the suppliers “bet against us and allocated resources elsewhere”, he says.

The revised schedule will still enable US air-taxi operator DayJet to begin training and route proving in time to launch services in Florida in mid-November, says Raburn. Initial certification will omit flight into known icing and autothrottle, while “a lot” of avionics functionality will follow within 45-90 days of type approval in the form of software upgrades, he says.

Eclipse also confirms the aircraft will miss its speed and range targets “slightly”, while exceeding useful load and climb rate projections. Maximum cruise speed is 370kt (685km/h), down from 375kt, but still within the guaranteed range. The aircraft’s stall speed is increased slightly, from 67kt to 69kt.

But, at 2,080km (1,125nm), “range is the big miss”, says Raburn. “We are 60nm below the bottom range of the guarantee.” He points out the figures are “worst-case” and that “real-world” reserves would add “100-150nm”, while slowing from high-speed to long-range cruise, a reduction of 15-20kt, would add another “150-250nm”.

An increase in gross weight to 2,700kg (5,950lb) has raised the useful load by almost 70kg to just under 1,090kg. “That increases flexibility,” says Raburn. “Many customers will never go maximum range. Now they can put in more payload before any fuel.”

Although customers have been given 30 days to cancel their orders and get a refund with interest, none have come forward so far, says Raburn. Production is continuing, and Eclipse plans to deliver 86 aircraft this year, increasing to 608 next year.

Development of the Sport-Jet single-engined VLJ has been put on hold by Colorado-based Excel-Jet after the proof-of-concept aircraft crashed on 22 June while taking off for its 25th test flight. The aircraft made an uncommanded roll at low altitude, hit the ground and was substantially damaged. The two crew were uninjured. Excel-Jet says wake turbulence or microburst could be the cause. Work on the four-seat jet has been suspended while the accident is investigated.

Source: Flight International