Eclipse Pains

The continuing saga of the very light jet (VLJ)


What the owners need is another source of information that will aid in maintaining these aircraft. Some talk of the aircraft owners acquiring the TC and/or continuing some sort of support program for the aircraft. Time will tell whether this fine design can continue to be produced and improved.

Postscript
The latest report as of this writing is that yes, there will now be a liquidation of Eclipse Aviation under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy rules. Whoever gets to acquire the assets of the company will have a huge job on their hands. Many feel that the company and production of this fine aircraft may never come back. The existing aircraft will then be true orphans.

Stephen P. Prentice is an attorney whose practice involves FAA-NTSB issues. He has an A&P certificate and is an ATP rated pilot. Send comments to aerolaw@att.net.

Congressional Hearing, September 2008
FAA Aircraft Certification: Alleged regulatory lapses in the certification and manufacture of the Eclipse EA-500

In 2006 FAA inspectors involved with the certification aspects of the EA-500 filed an official grievance with the DOT Inspector General’s Office alleging that FAA management pushed the certification of the EA-500 without listening to the inspectors’ concerns about the aircraft. The provisional type certification was presented to Eclipse at EAA 2006 AirVenture by Marion Blakey, former FAA Administrator.

The provisional certificate meant that even though there are many discrepancies left to the factory to correct, and some to be completed after aircraft are delivered, nevertheless, the aircraft can be produced and pushed out the door for delivery to purchasers.)

The Inspector General’s report was completed just prior to the congressional hearing. The FAA aircraft certification service engineers alleged that the FAA had inappropriately certified the EA-500. Prior to this complaint, another FAA engineer (the national aircraft certification representative of the Air Traffic Controllers Association) filed a grievance against two FAA managers. He stated in his grievance that the managers issued the TC (type certificate) even though the flight test and certification engineers had not completed their certification and safety inspections. It was alleged that there were outstanding safety and regulatory items yet to be completed. Nevertheless, the aircraft was certified by FAA management on Sept. 30, 2006. The Production Certificate was issued in April of 2007. The Inspector General was concerned that the FAA may have been more intent on promoting aviation and new technology than it was with its primary safety job.

The FAA has a duty to perform certification inspections in a non-negligent manner, and the breach of that duty may be the basis of government liability if accidents and or losses result. There have been numerous cases brought against the government because of alleged FAA negligence regarding certification performance. Some observers believe that this may be the case with the Eclipse certification.

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