June 6, 2013
By Jim Moore
A cutting-edge welding technology that eliminates the need for 7,000 rivet holes give Eclipse 500 and 550 jets some real staying power, now officially recognized by the FAA. Eclipse Aerospace announced June 6 that the service life of the new Eclipse 550, along with Eclipse 500 jets produced in years past, is now extended to 20,000 hours/20,000 cycles, with no calendar life limit. The company said this means the typical Eclipse owner can look forward to more than 50 years of operation.
"Once again, Eclipse has delivered on our commitment to our customers. To reach this goal, Eclipse invested hundreds of hours and several million dollars into this project. An actual Eclipse Jet was subject to the movements, loads, and fatigue that would normally be experienced over more than 60,000 flight operations. This testing also validated the strength and superiority of our patented Friction Stir Welding process," said Cary Winter, senior vice president of Engineering, Manufacturing, and Technical Operations, in a news release.
On the same day, Eclipse and SimCom Training Centers jointly announced that a new full-motion, Level D simulator is now ready for training at SimCom’s center in Orlando, Fla. The simulator allows pilots to complete all requirements for a single-pilot Eclipse type rating, along with recurrent training. In-aircraft instruction following a type rating is also offered. SimCom’s Eclipse training is approved by all major insurance underwriters, the companies said.
"With this Level D approved simulator, Eclipse Jet customers will now enjoy a high-fidelity training experience using a simulator with avionics identical to those in their actual jets,” said Eric Hinson, SimCom's president, in the news release. “The combination of our experienced instructors and this newly qualified simulator will allow Eclipse Jet operators to maximize the benefits of training. The result will be better prepared and more proficient Eclipse Jet pilots.”
Eclipse is the first in the aerospace industry to implement the specialized welding process that eliminates the need for holes that can lead to stress cracks, and triples the strength of the welded joints compared to traditional methods. The company announced at a customer event that an actual airframe was subjected to the movements, loads, and fatigue that would normally result from 60,000 operations, simulating loads generated by pressurization cycles, flight, and landings.
The FAA life cycle extension also applies to the 260 Eclipse 500 airframes that the company supports. Eclipse powered up the first production model of the 550, which retails for less than $3 million, in March.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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