October 31, 2012
By Thomas B Haines
Eclipse Aerospace officials report that the final test flight of the Eclipse 550’s autothrottle system is scheduled for this week. The system, once certified, will make the 550 the lowest cost—by far—twin-jet to receive an autothrottle system, which can dramatically reduce pilot workload and aircraft management duties, Eclipse CEO Mason Holland told reporters at NBAA2012 this week.
The autothrottle system is just one upgrade to the airplane to transform it from the 500 to the 550. Another is the installation of an Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S) integrated multifunction standby unit (IMSU). The new standalone IMSU in the upper left of the panel replaces the backup attitude and heading reference system that occupied space inside the multifunction display (MFD) on the model 500. By freeing up the MFD space, Eclipse can now display a full-size instrument approach chart on the left side of the MFD. One of the new IMSUs will be standard on the 550; a second in the upper right corner of the panel is optional.
IS&S provides all of the major cockpit displays and avionics systems for the Eclipse. Mason reports that the company has ordered 50 shipments of the displays to carry it through most of the first year of production.
Multiple 550s are already in various states of completion at Eclipse’s Albuquerque, N.M., factory. Mason said he expects to deliver 15 to 18 airplanes in the second half of 2013, each with a price tag of about $2.69 million. Once the production line has been established, Eclipse plans to integrate airframes, wings, and tail sections built at a Sikorsky plant in Poland into the production process—in 18 to 24 months.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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