Eclipse Aerospace announced late last week that it received FAA approval to double the life limit on existing Eclipse 500s and new-build Eclipse 550s to 20,000 hours/20,000 cycles. Cary Winter, senior vice president of engineering for the Albuquerque, N.M.-based company, said the extension “validated the strength and superiority of” the friction stir welding process used to assemble the aircraft’s fuselage and wings.
Friction stir welding bonds aluminum without rivets or conventional welding techniques, offering what its originators say is increased component strength and durability. Despite those claimed benefits, Eclipse 500s initially left the factory saddled with a 10-year/10,000-cycle limit that critics said ran contrary to the aircraft’s intended use as a high-cycle airframe suitable for air-taxi operations. The extended life limit provides more than 50 years of flight operations at normal usage rates, the company said.
Eclipse also announced the installation of a new full-motion flight simulator at SimCom’s training center in Orlando, Fla. The level-D simulator, equipped with the Avio integrated flight management system (IFMS) avionics suite installed in “Total Eclipse” upgraded Eclipse 500s and new Eclipse 550s, offers full simulator-based training toward an Eclipse type rating, as well as recurrent training.
The aircraft manufacturer plans to start delivering new Eclipse 550s this summer.