Eclipse Flies With Drones, Liberty With FADEC

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With a couple of drone engines supplying the power, the Eclipse 500 resumed flight testing Thursday, flying a 26-minute shakedown that Eclipse said went well. The Teledyne 382-10E engines are substituting for the yet-to-be-built Pratt and Whitney Canada PW610F engines that will go on production models. The drone engines will be used to complete aerodynamics and systems testing while the company waits for the Pratts. The last time the 500 flew it had Williams EJ22 engines on the back but the two companies parted company not long after Eclipse sent the test engines back. When new engines become available (expected in late 2004), Eclipse can move toward full certification, expected in 2006. Meanwhile, a bit closer to more wallets, the $128,000 Liberty Aerospace XL2 is on the brink of type certification for its two-place, high performance, FADEC-controlled piston-powered cruiser. In a letter to customers, Liberty President Anthony J.P. Tiarks said certification is expected in July and production could start in August. Tiarks said it will take about a year to build the first 50 planes that have been ordered and is urging buyers waiting for certification to get their deposits in now to avoid the flood of orders that might occur after the documents are finally signed. Tiarks also sheds some insight on the certification process itself, saying it's not for the faint of heart. "We have kept going, we have developed an aircraft that is fun, it performs and perhaps most important of all, it is safe," he said. "I believe the wait was worth it."