In the Works: Eclipse EA-400

 - July 29, 2008, 10:47 AM

Eclipse Aviation is back on the In the Works chart with the May launch of the EA-400 four-seat 330-knot single-engine jet. Although Eclipse has yet to make a formal application to the FAA for the EA-400 type certificate, the company has begun taking orders from existing Eclipse 500 buyers and opened the order book to new customers at the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh late last month. Price is $1.35 million (2008 $).

Eclipse expects to fly the first production-conforming 400 in 2010, with FAA certification to follow in the fourth quarter of 2011. When asked if Eclipse will focus on making the EA-400 certification and production program smoother than that of the Eclipse 500 twin, president and CEO Vern Raburn said, “Absolutely!” One of the reasons that the 500 had so many problems with delays in certification, production ramp-up and avionics functionality is that during the certification effort Eclipse was developing many of the airplane’s systems, he explained. “We’re going to
do it in a much more serial fashion,” he said.

The 400 should be simpler to develop, too, because it shares much of the 500’s systems and structure. Engineers adapted most of the 500’s aluminum fuselage and wings, but the empennage will be made of composites, as it was in the prototype single-engine Eclipse Concept Jet introduced one year ago at AirVenture. “We think we can certify this airplane in maybe 30 months,” he said, “because there’s so much commonality. We’re not doing a new wing, so stall testing and performance testing is going to be pretty straightforward.”

Having endured a tough development program on the EA-500, he added, “Hopefully we did learn some lessons and hopefully we are going to be more efficient. But we’re not going to measure efficiency in time; we’re going to measure efficiency in dollars and lack of repeated work.” Raburn expects the EA-400 to achieve certification with full avionics and autopilot functionality and flight-into-known-icing certification (which took place 21 months after the Eclipse 500 was certified). “We already have plans for how to ensure that occurs,” he said. “And mostly we’re going to just take more time.”