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Eclipse gets FAA nod for all-digital jet

Eclipse gets FAA nod for all-digital jet

By Paul Richfield

Eclipse Aviation has obtained FAA certification for its Avio NG integrated avionics suite, which now becomes standard equipment on the Eclipse 500 very light jet.

More than 100 completed Eclipse 500s are slated to receive the system at company expense; an Eclipse spokesman said the retrofit program is expected to run through late 2008.

For Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn, Avio NG certification represents the final realization of the Avio concept: To reduce the pilot’s workload with an all-digital airplane.

“The details have changed but the basic idea remains the same,” he told AOPA Online. “Human beings are just not good systems integrators and I’ve always believed that we have to give the pilot real information he can use—not just data.”

Avio NG certification also marks the departure of Avidyne from the Eclipse 500 program. Innovative Solutions & Support of Exton, Pa., will provide the aircraft with two primary flight displays and a single, larger multifunction display; various vendors will provide other avionics components.

Garmin will supply the transponder function for the integrated system, with Honeywell providing the communications and PS Engineering building the audio panel. Plans are to integrate a flight management system function as well, provided by Chelton Flight Systems.

According to Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse, Avio NG will provide better visual resolution than the initial Avio system it replaces, along with four-color weather radar and improved reliability.

Eclipse 500 buyers may also opt for a third AHRS (attitude and heading reference system) module if they like, along with the Goodrich Skywatch HP collision avoidance system, Class B terrain awareness and warning system, distance measuring equipment, an automatic direction finder, and a Mode S transponder.

With avionics and single-pilot instrument flight approvals obtained, the most critical signoff still pending for the Eclipse 500 is for flight into known icing.

Testing with simulated ice shapes is complete, a company spokesman said, leaving flights in actual icing conditions, and certification flights with FAA personnel aboard, as the remaining tasks to be accomplished.

“We expect to complete the known-icing certification in early 2008,” the spokesman said.

On the business side, Eclipse said it has raised more than $30 million after asking customers to increase their deposit commitment to “lock in” the aircraft’s $1.59 million purchase price.

“Essentially, it was a business deal between us and our customers that enabled us to fix the price,” Raburn said.

December 21, 2007

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