FAA Lowers Ceiling On Eclipse Jets

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The FAA has released a mandatory safety directive, effective March 21, that reduces the maximum operating altitude of Eclipse Aerospace EA500 jets from 37,000 feet to 30,000 feet in response to reported engine problems. The AD affects the whole fleet of 259 EA500s that use Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F-A engines. Operators are required to make the change to the limitations section of the airplane flight manual. The FAA says that hard carbon buildup on the static vanes of the engines has resulted in at least six reported incidents of engine surges. Pilots may be forced to respond to those surges by decreasing the power of the affected engine. According to the FAA, that "could result in flight and landing under single-engine conditions" and, if present in both engines, it could require dual engine shutdown.

The FAA considers the altitude restriction an interim action while Transport Canada and Pratt & Whitney Canada consider actions to address the problem. Holland told The Wall Street Journal that he thinks a 90-minute time limit for high-altitude cruise could be sufficient without imposing "a fuel penalty" on Eclipse operators. He expects a permanent fix from Pratt & Whitney within two months. The carbon build-up problem was addressed with an earlier AD that set an altitude limit for the jets at 37,000 feet. Of the six known events, five occurred at or below 37,000 feet and four of those took place in one two-week period. The FAA has determined its earlier action did not sufficiently address the problem and has set the new lower limit. Find the full AD online here. Comments including data, views, or arguments about the AD are being accepted.