With the Falcon 7X, French-based manufacturer Dassault has cut in half the time it takes it to build the first example of a new top-end business jet. The company is using digital design and construction tools to streamline the assembly process. At the same time, lower development and production costs have a favorable effect on the price of the 5,700-nm trijet, Dassault claims.
Call them what you want–very light jets (VLJs), compact jets, minijets, microjets, personal jets or even Barbie jets–they’re no longer “paper” airplanes. First deliveries of certified VLJs are less than a year away, if Eclipse Aviation adheres to its plan to begin deliveries of its Model 500 next March.
OK, first about the photo. We promise this will be the last time we’ll show the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and the Wright Flyer in the pages of AIN, at least until 2103. But we just couldn’t resist running a photo of an airworthy Wright airplane reproduction next to a business jet, albeit a mockup.
Keeping its promise, Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse Aviation flew the first Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F-powered Eclipse 500 certification flight-test aircraft at 10:16 a.m. MST on December 31. The milestone marked the beginning of a 15-month testing program that will involve seven test airframes and culminate with planned FAA certification in March next year.
Delivery of the first Eclipse 500 very light jet happened on either Dec. 31, 2006, or Jan. 4, 2007, depending on how you count. Eclipse Aviation received its first certificate of airworthiness from the FAA on the last day of 2006 and announced that it had delivered its first airplane by the end of the year to co-owners David Crowe and fractional share/management firm Jet-Alliance. But it held a formal delivery ceremony on January 4.
After an extended gestation period and months of uncertainty about first delivery, Eclipse Aviation delivered its first production very light jet (VLJ). When the FAA awarded an airworthiness certificate for the first production Eclipse 500 in the closing hours of last year the Albuquerque, N.M.-based tyro airframe manufacturer immediately initiated a virtual “delivery” in which the co-owners completed the documents via fax.
An ongoing “supplier problem” is casting a shadow over Eclipse Aviation’s receipt of its first type inspection authorization (TIA) from the FAA earlier this month. The TIA authorizes agency personnel to begin performing onboard aircraft testing of the Eclipse 500 for certification credit. But the supplier problem–which sources say is related to the avionics system–could delay the March certification target for Eclipse’s very light jet.
Aspen Avionics, the maker of the AT300 hazard awareness display, has asked a New Mexico court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Eclipse Aviation in October claiming “intellectual ownership” of the device. Former Eclipse employees Peter Lyons and Jeff Bethel say they developed the AT300 before ever coming to work for the VLJ maker and that Eclipse decided to sue them only after the pair left the company to form their own company.
Eclipse Aviation is facing further issues in its effort to begin deliveries of its very light jet and sent a 12-page letter to customers November 14 outlining wing-attach fitting and cockpit window cracking problems. Following receipt of FAA type certification on September 30, Eclipse has yet to deliver its first airplane but expects to do so within days, president and CEO Vern Raburn told AIN.
In a letter sent yesterday to Eclipse 500 buyers, Eclipse Aviation outlined design changes to help the very light twinjet achieve promised performance goals. Changes include larger metal tip tanks, which add three gallons to the previously announced 16.5 per side, for a total of 19.5 gallons per tank. Total fuel capacity will be 1,668 pounds, while mtow will remain 5,920 pounds, for a decrease in useful load of 40 pounds.