Provisional Certificate Has Limits
Vern Raburn accepted the provisional type certificate for the
Eclipse 500 very light jet twice Thursday -- once in a private, VIP
ceremony, and again under the beaming sun of Oshkosh, WI in front
of a cheering, hooting, whistling throng of Eclipse employees,
well-wishers, Eclipse position holders, and, for the first time, a
pilot whose production Eclipse was sitting on the ramp.
After receiving the certificate from FAA Administrator Marion
Blakey, Raburn stepped up to the microphone, paused as if
momentarily overcome, and said, "Wow."
The certificate has significant limits, which Raburn explained
as partly related to software integration issues, and partly
related to documentation and paperwork. The integration that needs
to be firmed up is specifically between the Eclipse AVEO system,
the Avidyne Entegra instrumentation system, and some subcontractor
components. Despite the snags, Vern Raburn assured all that he
expects the complete certification to be done by the end of
The certification required is day/night, VFR/IFR, single-pilot
and RVSM, throughout the Eclipse's complete operating envelope, so
it's quite involved. However, there are no serious shortfalls
except the design of the tip tanks, and a new design has already
been completed and mocked up on one aircraft.
Raburn displayed his usual effortless mastery of the most minute
and exacting details of the Eclipse program. For example, the
engine change from the ill-fated Williams FW22 to the PW 610F
required a redesign of 97% of the aircraft parts. There were 1.7
million engineering man-hours required. Certification needed 1800
test flights, 2700 hours. That's only the certification flights.
About 2 1/2 times as many have been used for development.
Raburn admitted missing one desired target: "We've never stated
range in any fashion except for full NBAA IFR range, at high-speed
cruise." As the composite tip tanks did not certify due to
insufficient lightning protection, metal tip tanks will now be
fitted -- and they'll be a little bit bigger. "Range will be
increased from 1055 to 1155. This is a miss! We said it would be
1280, and we did not make that. That's why we offered deposit
holders a refund." The number of depositors who asked for their
money back after the final range announcement: twelve. Out of
That means 2,488 were probably glad to move up a space or two in
the delivery schedule.
The most significant announcements were: the awarding of the
type certificate; a new round of capital funding which has secured
Eclipse's future; the successful completion of Part 36 noise level
testing, establishing the Eclipse as the quietest jet in history;
and not least, the departure of the first two customer Eclipses
from the nest for Oshkosh. (One was already at the show; the other
launched about 45 minutes before the press conference. It
subsequently arrived safely).
The customer Eclipse bumped the company's own L-39 from its
place on the Eclipse display. It belongs to David Crowe, co-owner
of Magnum Aviation in San Jose, CA. He said he plans to use the
aircraft for personal pleasure flying and some charter operations.
ANN asked if he plans to fly his Eclipse home from the show. "I
wish! I've got to pay the final bill first."
With a broad grin he described his reasons for choosing Eclipse.
"This is a real airplane. It has a classy interior, classy looks
and reminds me of a little hotrod Beemer. Anyone that rides in this
plane is going to be comfortable... and nothing touches it on the
The tight connections of Eclipse stakeholders -- somewhere
between a family and a cult, with Raburn as the patriarch -- were
apparent. Raburn's voice was heavy with emotion as he praised his
workers, and the workers reciprocated with lusty cheers when their
boss acknowledged them; position holders also responded with a
burst of applause on cue, and everybody -- even the reporters --
applauded pioneering owner Crowe.
For awhile Crowe was a member of a minority group of one,
Eclipse 500 owners -- but by day's end the second customer Eclipse
showed up. Right now, an Eclipse that is not in the factory's white
and orange livery is striking, so accustomed have we become to the
factory scheme. In the coming months that will change, as the
world's most advanced general aviation factory begins turning out
Eclipses on a regular schedule.
After all, 2,486 eager customers are still waiting.