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Tue, Nov 30, 2004

Future Eclipse 500 Owners Gather In ABQ (Part Two)

Investors in Raburn's 'Technological Transformation' Find Much To Celebrate

BEEEEEEPPPPP! ...we interrupt this article to offer you the latest pictures of another new Eclipse coming together -- and getting ready to fly in a VERY short period of time.

We'll get back to the story of the recent Eclipse gathering shortly... but these pictures are just so cool that we had to drop everything to get them out before anyone thought to do likewise (Remember, this is ANN... we not only scoop the competition, we try to rub their noses in it... grin).

Originally scheduled for January 6th of 2005, Flight Test Aircraft N503EA was set on its main and nose landing gear quite a bit early... November 28th, to be exact. The wings (including main landing gear), horizontal stabilizer, and rudder have been joined to the fuselage and the flaps are being installed. One of the reasons that N503EA is making such great progress is that Eclipse swapped the manufacturing order and first flight dates of N502EA (originally expected to be the first bird back in flight testing) and N503EA. Both will be conforming aircraft, but N503EA will focus on systems testing, while N502EA will focus on structures and aerodynamics testing.

Progress is proceeding swiftly at this point, and the whole program appears to be well ahead of schedule on most pivotal deadlines. The Eclipse flight test program is expected to resume shortly, powered by the new Pratt & Whitney 610F engine. When it happens, count on ANN to be there...

OK... Back To The Article

While the Eclipse Gathering was but a few hours old (if that), and major questions about insurability and pricing finally put behind them, Raburn's folks wasted little time in getting to the NEXT major issue of the day... training.

Eclipse was aware that training a new generation of bizjet pilots, especially a group that was largely comprised of folks who planned to operate (primarily) in single pilot configurations, was going to be quite the challenge. Even more, they were convinced that the way that GA was training jet pilots, up to this point, was wholly inadequate (just look at the accident stats and try to argue with that supposition -- you can't). It isn't that flying jets is all that hard... it ISN'T... and as a matter of fact, compared to their piston equivalent, jet flying tends to be simpler and SHOULD be safer (especially in terms of the failure rate of turbine powerplants as compared to piston).

But... jets ARE different.

The new Eclipse training program differs from most of what preceded it due to the fact that it concentrates on the pilot instead of the aircraft. By concentrating on "improving pilot management skills and judgement," Eclipse hopes to change the paradigm for high-performance aircraft training... hence the reason they went above and beyond the upper tiers of the corporate aviation training hierarchy to make a deal with United Airlines and Boeing's Alteon.

Eclipse's training guru, Don Taylor (shown above--one of the leaders in real-world flight training), spent some time talking to the hundreds of pilots awaiting their personal bizjets, emphasizing a training program that was mission-oriented and designed to "train the way you fly, and fly the way you train." This real-world flight training program is also designed to take advantage of normal flight profiles and is tailorable to a specific pilot's operating needs. The Eclipse scenario-based training system promises to be "real in ALL realms," including abnormal procedures, system failures, realistic emergencies (not the contrived stuff that doesn't happen outside of disaster movies), and conducted at a rate that ensures comprehension instead of confusion (charitably referred to as the "opposite of the 'fire-hose ingestion method'").

While turning to United Airlines for flight training in VLJs may seem like asking the Pope to teach Sunday School, the massive assets that UAL brings to this program as well as their ground-breaking work in cockpit management, makes sense. United is credited with developing several training innovations including Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT) and Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) and is pioneering single-pilot cockpit resource management (SP-CRM) training for the Eclipse 500. United is widely credited with pioneering the Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) program, now a standard for airline operations worldwide. Throughout its 78 years of commercial aviation leadership, United has been recognized for its commitment to data-driven curriculum and courseware standards and for its deep commitment to improving aircraft human factors and better decision making in the flight environment. UFTC conducts more than 1,400 pilot training events per month and is the world's largest training facility at 610,000 square feet. Established in 1968, United's Denver training center hosts more than seventy-five outside customers, including pilots in the U.S. Air Force, NASA and the FAA.

For you international types, Eclipse and Alteon also revealed that they are exploring a relationship using Alteon's International training centers for Eclipse pilot training outside of North America. Of some 20 locations worldwide, Alteon has 11 situated in 8 international locations.

How The Program Works

The Eclipse 500 training program is comprised of a multi-phase curriculum, including an initial flight skills assessment and supplemental training (if required), self-paced computer-based study, unexpected situations hands-on training, the type rating transition course, post-certification mentoring as well as recurrent training. Under the arrangement, the initial flight skills assessment has been expanded into a no-cost, day-long program that will gauge customers' readiness for the Eclipse 500 type transition training program. United expects to be able to begin training operations by offering the initial flight skills assessment to Eclipse 500 customers by mid-2005, subject to regulatory approvals.

Eclipse has priced this training at a fraction of the cost of comparable full-motion jet type rating courses. Included in the price of an Eclipse 500 aircraft, each customer will receive one set of self study training CDs (already under development, and the first three we've seen are pretty damned good), one flight skills assessment by United and one week-long type-transition course. The sole cost to the customer will be the required upset recovery training course in an L-39 priced at a subsidized cost of $995. Eclipse's training program is structured to accommodate the training needs of the wide variety of pilots that will fly the Eclipse 500. The training program will utilize the new FAA Industry Training Standards (FITS), which closely relates to the highly successful airline Advanced Qualification Program (AQP). Scenario based training will be used to enhance aeronautical decision making, risk management, and single pilot resource management skills for general aviation pilots.

Pricing for additional pilot type ratings and for recurrent training was also announced at the gathering...

  • $8,449 for the type rating course that includes the pilot qualification review, flight skills assessment, self-paced study, L-39 upset recovery training course and type rating transition course
  • $2,995 for recurrent training

Of course, the question of UAL's financial health came up... but with Alteon in the mix, UAL has partnered itself with a solid company that can step in even if the UAL situation goes totally to the dogs. While no one expects UAL to whither away and die, Eclipse, having learned more than they ever wanted to from the Williams saga, has once again set itself up with a sizable "Plan B."

One other interesting note about the flight training announcements... most all of the Eclipse training program details are to be made public.,.. even though Eclipse has already seen at least one competitive entity mimic their aims and goals... why would they do something like that? According to Vern, the answer is simple, "We don't want safety to be proprietary." Cool.

Next... Vern talks about the industry and the competition, their partnership with Pratt & Whitney and EVERYBODY runs amuck in the Eclipse factory (subtitled "Aviators in Toyland").

To Be Continued
FMI: www.eclipseaviation.com

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