Eclipse starts certification flights

The first of four Eclipse 500 flight certification aircraft made its maiden flight Dec. 31, “as we promised,” CEO Vern Raburn said. It made two flights on that first day of operations with production Pratt & Whitney Canada 610F turbofan engines.

The flight of N503EA initiated a 15-month program that ultimately will involve seven airframes, more than 3,000 flight hours and several hundred hours of static testing. 

The plan is to achieve FAA certification in March 2006, with first customer deliveries shortly thereafter, Raburn said.

N503EA took off from Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) at 10:16 a.m. on a flight that lasted for one hour and 29 minutes. Flight test engineers then cleared the airplane for a second departure at 3:59 p.m. That flight lasted 54 minutes.

The airplane is the first very light jet (VLJ) to fly in FAA conforming configuration, said Andrew Broom, Eclipse spokesman.

The plane was flown by test pilots Bill Bubb and Brian Mathy, who took it to 16,800 feet and 200 knots during the first day of flight tests, checking basic maneuverability and various aircraft systems, Broom said. Eclipse’s telemetry and data acquisition system monitored the flights, collecting some four gigabytes of data per flight hour. It monitors more than 2,000 aircraft parameters in real time, analyzing systems, structures, handling and performance.

“It was this advanced analytics system, combined with N503EA’s exceptional performance in its first flight, that enabled Eclipse to clear the jet for its second flight,” Broom explained. “Most general aviation programs do not have access to real-time data and require days between flights for performance analysis.”

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