Eclipse Aerospace received FAA approval for the extension of the service life of the Eclipse 500 and 550 to 20,000 hours/20,000 cycles with unlimited calendar life. According to the company, the life extension will provide the typical Eclipse owner with more than 50 years of operation at typical usage rates, as well as improved airframe residual value.
To obtain the life extension, Eclipse subjected an actual Eclipse to the movements, loads and fatigue that would normally be experienced over more than 60,000 flight operations. The testing validated the strength and superiority of the friction stir welding (FSW) process, according to Cary Winter, senior v-p of engineering, manufacturing and technical operations. Eclipse Aerospace says that the extension is possible primarily because of the FSW process, which eliminates the requirement to drill holes and install more than 7,000 rivets in the airframe. Rivet holes create opportunities for stress cracks to form. According to the OEM, elimination of rivet holes provides an airframe that is three times stronger than a traditional riveted airframe.
Both new Eclipse 550s and existing Eclipse 500s now have a life of 20,000 hours/20,000 cycles.