FAA Reviewing Certification Of Eclipse Jet

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The FAA said on Wednesday that it has begun a 30-day special review of its certification of Eclipse Aviation's very light jet, the Eclipse 500. The review started on Aug. 11. Jerry Mack, a former Boeing safety executive, is leading an oversight team of seven FAA experts with specialties such as flight testing, avionics, and certification, all of whom are independent of the original certification group. The FAA said the review team will look at aircraft safety, certification of aircraft trim, flaps, screen blanking, and stall speeds. These issues were the subject of Service Difficulty Reports that have been filed by operators since the aircraft was certificated on Sept. 30, 2006. The team will look at whether or not any of these issues were raised during the certification process and if any of the issues are currently a threat to safety. A union grievance filed in October 2006 questioned the timing of the E500 certification and suggested possible pressure from an FAA pay-for-performance policy.

Eclipse issued a statement saying that it welcomes the independent investigation and is "confident" in the outcome. "Eclipse is confident the review will find that the Eclipse 500 was in full compliance with all federal regulations at the time of its certification, and that all FAA testing was completed with the highest degree of thoroughness, accuracy and integrity," the statement reads. "Without a doubt, this special review will uncover what we already know -- that the Eclipse 500 marks the safest new airplane introduction into service in 20 years," said Roel Pieper, Eclipse Aviation's CEO. "Customer safety has always been a priority at Eclipse, and we look forward to this investigation dispelling any inaccuracies about the certification of this airplane for once and for all." The E500 accumulated more than 5,000 test hours on six aircraft, Eclipse says, well beyond the average of 1,100 hours for a GA aircraft. The 245 aircraft delivered so far have flown more than 32,000 hours and achieved a safety record "unprecedented" for a new Part 23 aircraft, Eclipse said. The company has posted its statement at www.eclipsefacts.com. The FAA noted that such a special review is not unprecedented. In the past 10 years, the agency has conducted special reviews on the Liberty XL-2 (2008), Mitsubishi MU-2B (2005), Cessna 208 (2005), Twin Cessna 400 Series Models (2004), Raytheon 390 (2004), and the Beechcraft T34 (2003).