Eclipse Takeoff Performance
Quoting from the Eclipse website, "This jet performs - even at higher altitudes and temperatures - were talking Telluride, Colorado (elevation 9,078 feet) in July."
Let's peel the skin off this onion by first looking at the certification basis for the Eclipse. Part 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 14.
One should note that Part 23 rules do not cover range or fuel flows. When a manufacturer publishes this data, it is not verified by the FAA even though it is published in the FAA Approved Flight Manual. Accuracy of the data is solely at the risk of the company's reputation and future legal responsibility.
Takeoff and landing distances are another matter. These numbers are determined by specific methods and must be verified by flight tests. Stall and climb speeds fall into this category. When published in the Flight Manual, this data is FAA validated and approved.
Part 23 certification applies to aircraft weighing less than 12,500 lbs. Takeoff distances are based on both engines operating and climbing to 50 ft above the runway. Eclipse has given no indication they are deviating from the basic requirement.
Aircraft weighing above 12,500 lbs are covered by Part 25. Takeoff distances are based on an engine failure during the takeoff run. The available runway must be sufficient to either continue the takeoff on one engine and top a 35 ft obstacle at the end of the runway or abort the takeoff and stop before the end of the runway.
The bottom line for Part 25 procedures, lose an engine on the takeoff run and the pilot should be able to handle the emergency. All other certified business jets and all commercial airliners operate to this standard. Even the Cessna Mustang, which will certify to Part 23, is basing their takeoff data on the Part 25 loss of engine criteria.
When Eclipse makes the claim their airplane can legally takeoff where perhaps no other jet can legally takeoff, it may be true, but not with the same safety margins. Lose an engine on the Eclipse halfway down the runway at Telluride and the results may be catastrophic!
Writing this makes me feel a bit hypocritical. In 1977, Learjet's V.P. of domestic marketing wanted to fly Jack Eckerd (owner of a chain of 1,500 drug stores in the Southeast) and three of his friends from Aspen to St. Petersburg, Florida. With a combination of the fuel to fly the trip non-stop, the temperature, Aspen's elevation and runway length, the flight could not be flown within the Flight Manual limitations. The domestic pilots refused the mission, so the V.P. turned to the international marketing department's pilots, Jim Bir and myself.
While there was no way to make a legal takeoff, we determined that by changing procedures, we could make a safe takeoff. This included added stopping power from the drag chute which is not counted in the Flight Manual numbers and reducing pilot reaction time for braking and spoiler deployment. We determined we could accelerate to the V2 speed on the ground (speed at which the airplane will fly on one engine) and if we lose an engine, the spoilers, brakes and drag chute would get us stopped before we ran out of concrete.
On the appointed Sunday afternoon, we had a shiny new Learjet 35A on the ramp in Aspen. Jack shows up with his party, we board and launch for St. Petersburg. The takeoff was uneventful, neither engine coughed. My well rehearsed co-pilot duties were to call the airspeeds, monitor the engine gauges, keep one hand on the drag chute handle and suck the gear up on rotation.
We left a Cessna Citation sitting on the ramp, the crew waiting for nightfall and cooler temperatures so that they could fly nonstop to Baton Rouge, LA.
Jack bought the airplane, our V.P. of domestic marketing was happy but the flight was an unethical demonstration for which I regret today. We put Jack's future pilot in a spot. If Jack wanted to make the same trip, how could the pilot explain that he could not do what the factory pilots had done.
But that was not the only time Jim Bir had flown outside the Flight Manual. In the early 70's, he flew the President of Ecuador out of a shorter runway than what the manual would allow.
Several months later, I stood before the Ecuadorian Minister of Defense and his military tribunal accused, on behalf of the company, of endangering the life of the president. Eventually the charges escalated to attempted assassination of their esteemed leader. The whole story can be read at:
There is a plaque that hangs in many areas frequented by aviators. It reads, "There are no old, bold pilots."
Such it was with Jim Bir. He took a new Learjet 55 to South Africa for demos. Just after lifting off at a small airport, he intended to roll the aircraft which we had done many times in 24s, 25's, and 35's. The 55 did not behave like the earlier aircraft and he augered in. His remains were cremated and sent home in a small stainless steel tube. I was pall bearer at his services.
We had flown together in the U. S., Europe, Japan, China, Australia, and all over South America and had shared a lot of adventures. But his death was sobering and I lost interest in driving airplanes.