Williams International is modifying a Rockwell Sabreliner to act as a flying testbed for the EJ22 small turbofan that will power the Eclipse 500 personal jet. The 700lb-thrust (3.1kN) engine will be mounted on a pylon above the fuselage, forward of the fin on the twin-engined Sabreliner.

Despite a substantial delay in beginning flight tests of the EJ22, Williams says it will have engines ready for the first Eclipse 500, which is due to fly in July, says Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Eclipse Aviation. "We basically have a completed engine. It is in its development phase and we will meet the goals set by Eclipse," company founder Sam Williams says.

When NASA chose Williams in 1996 for cost-sharing development of a small turbofan, designated the FJX-2, under the General Aviation Propulsion (GAP) programme, the engine was set to fly in 2000 in the V-Jet II experimental light aircraft designed by Williams and Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites. The EJ22 is the first commercial derivative of the FJX-2, which was first ground-tested in late 1998.

NASA says the GAP programme objectives were achieved last June when the FJX-2 surpassed 700lb sea-level static thrust in ground testing. The prototype engine weighed 85lb (38.5kg), resulting in a thrust-to-weight ratio of greater than 8.2 - higher than any other commercial turbofan, NASA says.

Eclipse, meanwhile, has completed its third round of financing, securing another $100 million from private investors and taking the total raised to $220 million. The additional investment will fund the programme beyond first flight. The company hopes it will then become easier to raise the rest of the $300 million required to achieve certification and launch production of the Eclipse 500. US certification is set for December 2003, leading to first deliveries in January 2004.

Source: Flight International