Witching Hour? Eclipse Nears Certification Deadline

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Eclipse Aviation's self-imposed June 30 deadline for FAA certification was looming large in Albuquerque this week as the company worked to clean up details and heave itself over the finish line. All signs -- public and private -- point to a photo finish later this month when company officials hope both the stars and its suppliers will align perfectly with the FAA's paperwork requirements to produce that magic piece of paper. While no one at Eclipse would go on the record with AVweb when we asked the inevitable "howgozit" question, we can read between the lines as well as the next guy or gal and offer up this not-so-earthshaking prediction: It's too close to call. Indications are that a small handful of items remain to be finalized before the FAA can act. Whether those challenges can be met and the airplane certificated by June 30 is anyone's guess. And we're not going to stick out our neck that far.

At this point, though, whether Eclipse will meet its deadline is really an academic exercise. Even if June 30 comes and goes without the first certificated very light jet (VLJ), you can bet that EAA AirVenture, which starts July 24, will see at least one Eclipse 500 on the flight line with what passes for the FAA's approval stamp. The real question is: If Eclipse doesn't make the deadline, who will get the blame and what will the company say? That one's fairly predictable, though, and we'll climb out on a stout limb to suggest that the ubiquitous and all-encompassing "supplier-induced delays" will get the lion's share of the blame if Eclipse blows past June 30 without a certificated airplane. In the end, it won't really matter, however. Eclipse will still have the first certificated VLJ, with Cessna, Adam and Embraer -- to name a few -- following closely behind, though not necessarily in that order or perhaps with a "pure" VLJ, however the industry may come to define that term. Instead, what will really matter is how well the first few months of in-service operation go for the new jet and whether any of them are involved in accidents/incidents. We'll keep you posted.