Eclipse was ready for Oshkosh with a well orchestrated award ceremony featuring FAA Administrator Marion Blakey doing the honors. The Eclipse exhibit was festooned with banners and signs proclaiming "Type Certified", reminiscent of Bush's "Mission Accomplished" banner on the aircraft carrier. George's celebration was premature as was Vern's.
Eclipse earned a Provisional Type Certificate as did Raytheon back in December 2004 for the Hawker Horizon. Raytheon delivered the first production Horizon symbolically to Jack DeBoer then promptly leased the airplane back for further testing. Twenty months later, Raytheon has yet to receive the "Type Certificate" for the Horizon and Jack has yet to get his hands on his airplane nor have any other units been delivered. Raytheon is still struggling to clear its open items...Vern says he can clear his by the end of August (we assume he means August 2006).
One of Vern's issues was the determination that the composite tip tanks would not pass the lightning strike tests...a clear engineering blunder. Somebody should have known better. Fuel tank lightning strike protection is a basic FAA requirement that has not changed in many years and compliance is well understood. Eclipse will now convert to aluminum tanks.
My recollection from 44 years ago suggests they should be using .050 material which is pretty thick (and heavy) for such a small tank, but absorbing the electrical charge dictates the thicker material.
To boost fuel capacity to 249 gallons, the tanks will be made about 16 inches longer. The individual I spoke with said Eclipse had been flying the larger shape and that it did not affect stability or performance.
In a statement to the press, Vern claimed that receipt of the Provisional Type Certificate proved the naysayers wrong. I don't know anyone suggesting he could not certify the airplane. He has been at it for about 6 years and has spent nearly a half-billion...3 times the amount he expected...3 times the elapsed time he expected and he still can't stand on the carrier deck and claim "mission accomplished".
This naysayer and others did say the Eclipse would not meet it's empty weight target, range nor cost projections. The naysayers were right and this naysayer expects further empty weight increases with associated reductions in performance. The cake is not out of the oven! We will learn the true empty weight when the 101st unit is delivered and we can read the weight and balance page out of the FAA approved Flight Manual.
In a July 6, 2006 interview with Aviation International Online, Vern announced the first 100 airplanes will have even shorter range, 1,050 nm vs 1,280 nm. After unit 100, the range will be boosted to 1,150 nm as claimed in their June 25, 2006 press release. I asked an Eclipse employee how they would achieve this extra hundred miles. He explained it was mostly from the larger tanks and a drag clean up relating to the horizontal and vertical tail intersections.
Eclipse has been relentless in touting the use of friction stir welding and the man-hours saved in manufacturing. In follow up to my April 11 post discussing the technical problems with FSW, I wanted to again look at a production aircraft to see just how many of the joints are welded. My guess is at best, only about 10% are welded. The rest, conventionally riveted and they use some really large and protruding exterior fasteners where the tailcone joins the pressure vessel, definitely not cool for a "fast jet."
We are not getting much feed back on this blog but did learn the Eclipse competitors are reading the material. They are happy to see somebody writing objectively on the program rather than just reprinting Eclipse press releases and interviews with the very accessible Vern Raburn.
Three more posts are in work. The include: Transparency Lost, Cinderella's Magic Slippers and Money Money Money Money Money Moneeeeeee. Check back.