By Thomas B. Haines
Eclipse Aviation last week received FAA approval of its Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program. FOQA uses flight data monitoring capabilities built into the Eclipse 500 very light jet to help the manufacturer proactively assess and correct high-risk operating conditions before they cause an accident.
FOQA is a commonly used tool in the airline industry, but Eclipse is the only aircraft manufacturer to deploy such a system. Operational and system data is downloaded from Eclipse 500s during maintenance procedures and sent to the company. At Eclipse, the data is blended with other data from the rest of the fleet and then analyzed by sophisticated software to determine any dangerous trends.
The resulting information can be used to improve aircraft systems, pilot training courses, and flight manuals. No identifying information is included, so individual pilots and operators should not feel threatened, Chris Solan, Eclipse's manager of flight safety, told AOPA.
Since certification of the airplane late last year, Eclipse has delivered about 75 airplanes, but continues to struggle to build airplanes at a rate that allows the company to become profitable. CEO Vern Raburn has said the company needs to manufacture about 600 airplanes a year to reach a profitable threshold.
November 7, 2007