In The Works: Eclipse 500

 - July 11, 2008, 6:30 AM

The FAA on January 29 issued a notice of proposed special conditions for the Eclipse 500, which, if implemented, would require the twin-engine super-light jet to include an engine-fire extinguishing system in its design. The special conditions are needed, said the FAA, because “the applicable airworthiness regulations [FAR Part 23] do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for this design feature, because aft-mounted turbine engine installations were never envisioned in the development of Part 23.” Two aft-mounted Williams EJ22 turbofan engines will power the Eclipse.

However, this notice was issued by mistake, the FAA told AIN. According to an FAA spokesman, the error occurred due to a change in personnel at the agency’s Small Airplane Directorate (ACE-111) in Kansas City, Mo., and the use of documents relating to the company’s original type certificate application instead of revised documents, which addressed the engine-fire extinguishing requirement with a detection system and fuel shut-off valves. An amended notice of special conditions for the Eclipse was expected to be issued before the end of last month, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Eclipse obtained more money in December, bringing its total funding to $180 million, according to CEO Vern Raburn. “We’re working on additional funding, but I cannot disclose the amount at this time,” Raburn told AIN. He also revealed that Nimbus Group, which was to have obtained an equity position in Eclipse along with its order for 1,000 airplanes, has not invested in Eclipse. Ilia Lekach, Nimbus chairman and CEO, told AIN that after September 11, the Brazilian investor who was going to provide the funding had to back out of the deal. Lekach explained that Nimbus has made its first deposit to Eclipse according to a five-year payment schedule and that raising the money to buy the 1,000 Model 500s it wants for its planned air-taxi operation is “not an issue.”

Raburn also said that Eclipse is now working on “two other orders of the same magnitude as the Nimbus order.” The Model 500 development program is on track, he said, with workers “turning pixels to metal” in the company’s new Albuquerque, N.M. facility, the first flight of the number-one prototype planned for late summer and FAA certification targeted for December next year. Last month the company announced it had successfully used friction-stir welding to assemble the lower cabin for the first prototype–the first components to be so joined. “While we have been completing friction-stir welds for some time now,” said Raburn, “this is a very significant milestone.”