First PWC-Powered Eclipse Rolls Out

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The first Eclipse 500 certification test airplane -- complete with new Pratt & Whitney Canada engines -- rolled out of the company's Albuquerque assembly plant on Saturday. The airplane is the first of five flying test beds that will go through the certification process. Other airframes will be used for static and fatigue testing. First flight of the test aircraft will occur sometime in the next couple of weeks, according to an Eclipse statement. "Roll out of (the test plane) is an important symbol of the real progress made in the Eclipse 500 program," said CEO Vern Raburn. Certification is still planned for May of 2006, more than a year later than originally planned by the company. The program was stalled in 2003 when Eclipse fired Williams as its engine contractor after problems with the engine. Pratt & Whitney Canada developed a new engine for the Eclipse, the PW610F. While Eclipse waited for the engine, it completed aerodynamic and systems validation testing on an airframe powered by drone engines.