Eclipse Boss Gets Involved With Flight Testing

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Well, a lot of CEOs say they're hands-on, but there's no disputing Eclipse boss Vern Raburn's claim. Instead of watching the flight test program of the 500 from the corner office, Raburn has flown the chase plane on at least three hops. As of May 20, the re-engined personal jet had flown six times and completed a major portion of the slow-speed aerodynamic and systems work. The test plane has flown as high as 15,000 feet at speeds ranging from 85 to 183 knots. "The results are very positive and prove that the Eclipse 500 airframe program is on track despite earlier engine vendor problems," Raburn said. So far, the flaps, gear, speed brakes and flight controls have been put through their paces -- and the airframe itself has undergone a 2.5-G turn. The Eclipse is flying with a pair of Teledyne drone engines that seem to be holding up. Since abandoning the Williams EJ22, Eclipse has to wait for new engines to be developed by Pratt and Whitney Canada, and the drone engines allow airframe testing to continue until the Pratts are ready at the end of 2004. The summary of each test flight says the airplane behaved "as expected." Unusual Albuquerque weather has given test pilots a glimpse of how the plane behaves in rough stuff. On the first flight, the pilot landed in wind gusts up to 44 knots, saying it behaved well in the turbulence. An advanced telemetry system is helping the company gather more data and at a faster rate than other test programs. "Our engineers are able to see what is happening to the airplane in real time," said Raburn.