First Customer Eclipse 500 On The Line

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The very first customer who will fly away an Eclipse (no, it's not Bill Gates) took a personal interest in the creation of his airplane in a ceremony at the company's Albuquerque headquarters late last week. David Crowe, described only as a pilot and businessman, started the friction stir welding machine as it began work on his jet. The company's current certification projections target June 30 for FAA certification and Sept. 29 for completion of natural icing flight tests. Crowe, who put down his deposit in May of 2000, praised the dedication of the company and its employees for seeing the creation of the airplane to this point. "Folks who work here are not just punching timecards -- I can feel that every time I visit," he said. Eclipse line workers, and hundreds more who will join them, are now rolling up their sleeves to get 130 of the airplanes built by the end of the year, according to The Associated Press. The company broke ground on a new assembly building earlier this year and the number of employees is expected to almost double to more than 1,000 workers by year-end.