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Wed, Jun 25, 2008

FIKI... Finally! Eclipse 500 Receives Flight Into Known Icing Certification

Dramatically Expands Operating Envelope For VLJ

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 06.25.08 1600 EDT: It's a major step forward for the inaugural very-light jet. Moments ago,  Eclipse Aviation announced the Federal Aviation Administration has granted Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI) certification for the Eclipse 500.

"This certification process is one of the most difficult things to put a new model of aircraft through," said Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation.  "We've worked through this process for some time, flying the Eclipse 500 in the precise natural icing conditions that the FAA requires. We tested the aircraft in some of the most severe weather conditions we could find, wherever we could find it.

"By receiving the FAA certification, we proved that the aircraft can withstand known icing conditions in a real-world operating environment with no structural changes required of the airframe," Raburn added.

Though the company had promised imminent FIKI certification at numerous times over the past three years, Eclipse says it conducted its first test flight with an artificial ice shape in August 2007. Since that time, more than 300 flight hours on three test aircraft have been recorded, including more than 60 hours conducted in natural icing conditions in many locations in the United States and Canada.

Eclipse also performed extensive tests with the Eclipse 500 in normal operation and ice protection system failure conditions in icing tunnels and with artificial ice shapes (shown below) to simulate ice build up attached to the aircraft's airfoils.

The de-icing system on the Eclipse 500 includes pneumatic de-ice boots on the wings and horizontal stabilizer leading edges, electrically heated windshield and air data probes, and bleed air heated anti-ice engine inlets.

Eclipse states aircraft delivered in late summer 2008 will incorporate all the changes needed for FIKI, but earlier planes will require a series of modifications -- some easier to install than others. For starters, any EA500s prior to S/N 38 -- before a series of performance modifications were introduced, the most prominent of which were larger tip tanks -- will need the performance mods installed.The Albuquerque, NM-based planemaker also changed deicing boot suppliers, starting with S/N 78... so again, all previous aircraft will require that change.

All FIKI-compliant EA500s will require numerous changes, including a rain-repellant coating around static ports, and changes to static bonding and discharge equipment -- including windscreen coatings, engine bonding straps, and new static wicks. The planes will also need a new autopilot pitch servo installed, as well as a new rudder centering spring.

Following its previous policies regarding post-delivery upgrades, Eclipse says it will perform all necessary modifications on the company's dime... but the planemaker isn't saying yet when its maintenance facilities -- already struggling to meet commitments to retrofit the performance mods to earlier planes, as well as the post-S/N 104 changeover to the Avio NG avionics system -- will be able to start work on FIKI mods, as well.

FMI: www.eclipseaviation.com

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