QRA app makes Eclipse flying easy

 - July 1, 2012, 3:50 AM
To add or remove a passenger or change the weight, just tap on a seat and the graph updates instantly.

Eclipse Aerospace released its Quick Reference Application (QRA) for the Apple iPad in February, and since then the adoption rate has penetrated most of the fleet of 259 operational Eclipse 500 very light jets. “More than 80 percent of the entire fleet has at least one iPad they’re using for our app,” said Eclipse Aerospace CEO Mason Holland.

The QRA app is unique for the business jet industry for a few reasons. First, it is provided free to any Eclipse 500 (and soon new-production Eclipse 550) operator. “What others charge $1,500 a year for, we give for free,” Holland said. Second, QRA works without requiring Internet access, which is now the case with other business jet performance apps but wasn’t when they were first introduced. Finally, the QRA app is a fully functioning flight planning, performance and in-flight reference tool (including checklists), virtually eliminating the need to look at paper documents.

The design of the QRA app leads the user through a natural progression, from weight-and-balance to trip planning, in-flight calculations, checklists, emergency procedures, performance and a full suite of all the manuals for the Eclipse 500.

The weight-and-balance section is extremely intuitive, with crew, passenger and baggage weights that can be changed by tapping on each location. The cg-limits chart dynamically adjusts as weights and fuel are added or removed, showing instant feedback on cg and weight limits. As the cg moves aft in the Eclipse 500, for example, the maximum weight is lower. The weight-and-balance function quickly shows the user how adding fuel with an aft cg bumps the maximum weight over the limit, but still leaves payload remaining that can be used for a heavier pilot up front.

Once the weight-and-balance is settled, the trip-planning section incorporates that data. Here the user can play with distance, type of descent (normal, idle or early), max-continuous or long-range cruise, altitude, ISA temperature and average wind to see how that affects fuel needed to reach the destination, time en route, cruise true airspeed and fuel reserves. Carrying five people and 50 pounds of baggage, in the example tested, the Eclipse 500 can taxi with 1,410 pounds of fuel. At +10 degrees ISA and at that weight, the airplane is limited to 35,000 feet. With power set to max continuous and 10-knot headwinds, a 750-nm trip is possible, leaving 54 minutes of reserve fuel after burning 1,047 pounds for a time en route of 2:18. Switching to long-range cruise drops fuel burn to 1,022 pounds and leaves 58 minutes of reserve, with time en route of 2:27. A simple drop in outside temperate to ISA would allow a climb to the more efficient maximum altitude of 41,000 feet, reducing fuel burn to 936 pounds and time en route to 2:19.

The next tab is for in-flight calculations, which outputs fuel, time and reserves at destination and cruise true airspeed and fuel flow. The inputs are distance and fuel remaining, cruise conditions and descent options. Once again, this is a quick way to evaluate variables to find the best option.

Checklists cover all operations. Touching any checklist item turns it green, and it’s easy to see what hasn’t been accomplished.

The emergency sections cover all crew advisory system (CAS) messages and unannunciated procedures. A search box helps users find items quickly; there are a lot of CAS messages.

Next is performance, which lets the user evaluate takeoff, climb and cruise, and descent and landing conditions. In the takeoff condition, for example, runway distances are shown at various flaps settings, any weight limitations are highlighted, rate of climb and climb gradient are displayed for two- and one-engine operation, and V speeds are provided. Plenty of information is shown for the climb/cruise and descent/landing options, including runway requirements with and without wing ice. The takeoff condition includes a setting for takeoff minimums, allowing the user to select the required feet per nautical mile to a specific altitude. For landing calculations, the app displays not only runway requirements but also headwind and crosswind components and slope effects for the selected runway, wind conditions and slope.

Documents include the AFM and maintenance manual, and users can download many other Eclipse documents, including the Avio IFMS supplement for the Innovative Solutions & Support avionics.

The QRA app was developed by Eclipse 500 owner Marcus Adolfsson, working with Eclipse’s David Finley and Chad Elkins. The next step is to add the capability of hyperlinking data in the manuals, so that users won’t have to use the search function to find material but can go directly from, say, a link in the CAS document to the information in the AFM. “The pilot doesn’t need to be thumbing through pages,” Holland said. “He needs to go to the source.” Eclipse also uses the QRA app to deliver safety information directly to Eclipse 500 owners and operators. This includes not only service bulletins but also emails about new developments or Eclipse news. “This is a great tool for customers,” he said.