Rumormill Roils Over FAA's Eclipse 500 Type Certificate

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The FAA issued a type certificate for the Eclipse 500 last Sept. 30, but a grievance filed Oct. 20 by National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) aircraft certification representative Tomaso DiPaolo hit the spotlight this week suggesting the gesture may have been rushed. DiPaolo suggests that the pay-for-performance structure within the FAA may have held undue influence in the process. DiPaolo's grievance, posted late last week to a blog, alleges that "several outstanding safety/regulatory issues" noted by certification engineers and test pilots would have precluded issuance of the TC, were it not rushed through channels on the last calendar day of the government's fiscal year. The allegations are not intended to implicate Eclipse (and Eclipse denies any attempt to involve political influence in the certification process) but rather target the FAA's operating structure. The Eclipse 500's journey through the late certification process did not end when the aircraft originally received a "provisional" certification on the ramp at Oshkosh in late July. That certificate did not allow the company to start deliveries. Full certification came on Sept. 30, but deliveries were held up while problems with wing fasteners and windscreens were addressed. That was followed by a parting of ways with key avionics supplier Avidyne, which is being resolved with a new avionics system dubbed Avio NG.