...While Eclipse Retires One...

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As Sino Swearingen launched a new test aircraft, Eclipse Aviation announced it was retiring its first test aircraft, which has told them all it can about the low- and medium-speed handling of the Eclipse 500. The test plane flew a total of 54 hours in 55 flights using a pair of Continental target drone engines for power. Eclipse is awaiting development of the Pratt and Whitney Canada PW610F engines that will ultimately (certification is targeted for early 2006) provide the ponies for the 500 but, in the meantime, decided to test various aerodynamic and handling qualities. There weren't any major surprises in the program and no significant redesigns are forthcoming. "This airplane has not only enabled our engineers to validate all of the aerodynamic data that was predicted in the wind tunnel, but has also given us the valuable information we need to start building our certification and production aircraft," said CEO Vern Raburn. The company used an elaborate data-acquisition system that provided reams of data on each flight. More than 600 parameters were tested on each flight and up to six gigabytes of information was gathered for later analysis. That's about 10 times as much information as provided by standard data-acquisition equipment and it enabled the first test plane to go into retirement much sooner than if it had not been so equipped. The company claims the 54 hours it flew would be equal to as much as 200 hours of testing under conventional circumstances. The uneventful first phase of testing kept the company on track for certification sometime in 2006.