Recent evidence suggests that managers at the FAA might have rushed the issuance of the Eclipse 500 type certificate (TC) last Sept. 30. A grievance filed on Oct. 20 by National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) aircraft certification representative Tomaso DiPaolo and posted this week to a blog site alleges that aircraft certification engineers and flight test pilots assigned to the Eclipse 500 program had identified "several outstanding safety/regulatory issues" before Sept. 30 that would have precluded issuance of the TC. DiPaolo told AVweb that the unnamed engineers and test pilots were unaware until coming into work on Monday morning that FAA managers issued the Eclipse TC over the weekend, adding, "Who's ever heard of the FAA working on a Saturday?" Eclipse Aviation director of communications Andrew Broom told AVweb that his company did not influence the timing of the TC issuance: "We did not use any political connections to push for acceleration of the Eclipse 500 type certificate." DiPaolo also said he was not aware of any influence on Eclipse's part; instead he believes that the FAA's push might have had something to do with the agency's new "pay for performance" mandate.
Curiously, Sept. 30 is the last calendar day of the federal government's fiscal year. And since the FAA now ties bonuses and pay raises to performance, it's entirely possible that agency managers could have very well pushed the Eclipse TC through on the last day of fiscal year 2006 to meet a specified performance level for a pay raise and/or bonus, according to DiPaolo. He further said it is because of this pay-for-performance structure that the certification engineers and test pilots were not identified in the grievance, for fear that they would be denied any pay raises for speaking out. FAA spokesman Roland Herwig told the Albuquerque Journal that he couldn't comment specifically on the grievance, while adding that the FAA had no safety concerns with the very light jet. AVweb was unable to reach designated FAA certification office public affairs officials on Friday for comment. Meanwhile, DiPaolo said several of the certification engineers and test pilots have had meetings with the DOT Inspector General's office, though DOT Assistant IG for Legal, Legislative and External Affairs Brian Dettelbach would neither confirm nor deny such meetings or any investigation whatsoever into the matter.