Eclipse Fleet Now Five, Airbus Adopts Friction Stir?

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Eclipse Aviation launched its fifth and final conforming flight-test aircraft, N506EA, last Wednesday in Albuquerque. The jet will be used for function and reliability testing under accelerated usage conditions. "We now have all five of our FAA-conforming flight-test aircraft in various stages of flight testing and will be building flight hours at an unprecedented rate over the coming months," said Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn in a news release last week. The flight-test fleet has accumulated nearly 300 flight hours, while demonstrating a maximum speed of 285 knots, stall speed of 67 knots and service ceiling of 41,000 feet, the company said. N506EA will be on static display at AOPA Expo in Tampa, Fla., from Nov. 3 to 5 and at the National Business Aviation Association Convention in New Orleans from Nov. 15 to 17. Also last week, Speednews reported that Airbus will become the first big-airplane manufacturer to adopt friction stir welding production. Eclipse was an early adopter of the technique, which welds aluminum without melting it and replaces the use of rivets. Airbus plans to use friction stir welding on its A340s, and on a larger scale in the assembly of the A350, Speednews said.