Eclipse readies for first certification flight

The first Eclipse 500 intended as a certification flight test aircraft rolled out of the factory Dec. 11. Its engines are the Pratt & Whitney Canada 610F turbofans that will power the Albuquerque, N.M.-based company’s production airplanes.

As this issue was going to press, Eclipse employees would say only that the plane’s first flight would be made “by Dec. 31,” although there were hints that it would happen sooner, if possible.

“Rollout of N503EA is an important symbol of the real progress made in the Eclipse 500 program,” said Vern Raburn, Eclipse president and CEO. “Over the coming months, we will have five test aircraft flying, as well as airframes for static and fatigue testing. The Eclipse 500 remains on track for FAA certification in March 2006.”The first Eclipse 500, N500EA, flew for the first time in August 2002 and was retired in October 2003 after completing its part of the flight test program. Since then, the company has been building seven preproduction aircraft. One will be used for static tests, one for fatigue tests, and the other five for certification flight tests. Earlier this year, Eclipse made a change in the manufacturing order for the next two aircraft, which means N503EA will be manufactured and flown prior to N502EA.

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