Eclipse forges ahead on 500 fixes

 - July 29, 2008, 9:12 AM

Eclipse Aviation in late June received flight into known icing (FIKI) approval for the Eclipse 500, though in-service and undelivered aircraft up to S/N 265 will require modifications to fly in such conditions. Company vice president of sales and marketing Mike McConnell told AIN that S/N 266, scheduled for delivery in late summer, will be the first Eclipse 500 off the production line with FIKI capability, as well as the dual Garmin GPS 400W avionics configuration that will provide GPS WAAS functionality.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque, N.M.-based company is finishing for pre-S/N 266 Eclipse 500s a FIKI service bulletin that will require early serial numbers to be fitted with new de-icing boots. All aircraft up to and including S/N 265 will need rain-repellent coating on the windshield and static ports, engine ground bonding straps, additional static wicks, a new autopilot pitch servo and a rudder-centering spring to meet FIKI requirements.

Meanwhile, Eclipse is developing a software fix that will prevent the thrust levers of its model 500 from being pushed beyond their design limits during normal operation. The software fix comes in response to an FAA emergency Airworthiness Directive issued on June 12 that called for thrust-lever inspections and revised procedures in more than 200 Eclipse 500s after an out-of-control thrust incident at Chicago Midway Airport on June 5.

The pilot of Eclipse 500 N612KB apparently moved the thrust levers forward with enough force to cause the engines’ fadec to believe a control failure had occurred. Eclipse said more than 80 percent of the in-service fleet has undergone thrust-lever inspections, with serious anomalies found in two other Eclipse 500s. Eclipse plans to increase the range limit of the thrust-lever assembly enough to prevent the fault condition, pending approval of the software update by the FAA.

Another issue for Eclipse came to light on June 6 when Eclipse deposit-holder Geiger Excavating of Fort Wayne, Ind., filed a lawsuit for refund of a $150,000 deposit. Company president Jay Geiger had ordered an Eclipse 500 and signed a deposit agreement in October 2000, eventually depositing $150,000.

Sometime before April this year, according to Geiger’s complaint, Eclipse told him that he should expect delivery of his airplane in October or November. On April 11, Eclipse notified Geiger that he had to pay $773,762.40 by April 18 or he would forfeit his deposit, and this was based on September delivery.

Geiger asked Eclipse to adjust the payment date to reflect the October/November delivery date, but Eclipse refused to do so, according to the complaint. So on April 11 Geiger asked for his deposit back. When Eclipse refused to provide a refund, Geiger filed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses Eclipse of material breach of the deposit agreement and notes that the agreement includes a provision allowing cancellation and refund if the Eclipse 500 is not FAA certified by June 30, 2004. The very light jet received FAA certification on Sept. 30, 2006. It is not known whether the FAA’s granting of provisional certification on July 27 counted for the purposes of deposit agreements. An Eclipse spokeswoman said the company does not comment on lawsuits.

Another Eclipse buyer, John Mayer of Tucson, Ariz., told AIN that when Eclipse raised the price of the EA-500 to $2.15 million on May 30, he had the opportunity to cancel his purchase agreement and obtain a refund of his deposit. He decided to avail
himself of this offer and sent his cancellation request to Eclipse via FedEx to a lockbox in Irving, Texas, per Eclipse’s instructions. Eclipse’s Manuel Arrellin told Mayer that although the package was delivered to Eclipse on June 12, it was not received at the company’s Albuquerque, N.M. headquarters until June 19. The Eclipse deposit agreement says, “Eclipse shall make the refund within 30 days of receiving the effective notice.” On July 21 the company informed Mayer that his refund was on its way.