Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Little Jet That Can

The Eclipse 500 is back, and this time, they’ve done it right

Meanwhile, fuel burn was a relatively meager 59 gph total, confirming Holland's claim that the Total Eclipse is the most economical jet above the planet. If you needed to stretch range, you could come back a little on the thrust and reduce burn to 48 gph, still truing 325 knots. At that rate, the Eclipse could manage well over 1,000 nm between fill-ups.

Many Eclipse operators will probably fly with two pilots, but that's not necessary since the airplane is certified for single-pilot operation. There's nothing difficult about handling in any mode, especially during approach. Stall speed is a slow 67 knots, only eight knots quicker than most single-engine turboprops, so approach speeds are remarkably low.

At our weight, final approach into Van Nuys worked out to 93 knots. That's slower than typical bug speeds in a Cessna 421 or Aerostar. If you're right on the numbers, the Eclipse can handle 3,000-foot runways with ease, and the trailing beam gear system is almost guaranteed to make anyone look like a pro.

In fact, virtually every aspect of flying the Eclipse is easier than operating a business twin such as a 421, Duke or Aerostar 700. The cruise speeds are typically at least 100 knots quicker, but the big numbers don't manifest themselves until you're at high altitude where they become little more than readouts on the Avio NG system.

On The Horizon
As this is written, Holland still has a number of ground-up Eclipse 500s available for build- up to Total Eclipse configuration at the aforementioned $2.15 M price. These include new paint and interior, FIKI (known icing) certification and a full factory warranty.

After the first of the year, the company will be returning to production, building the Eclipse 550, an updated version of the basic airplane. The 550 will utilize the same engines and configuration but will incorporate a number of operational updates. Performance will be the same as that of the 500.
Starting a jet engine always sounds incredibly complex, but on the Eclipse, it's anything but. The FADEC system monitors all parameters during start-up and will automatically abort if any temperature becomes too far out of tolerance.
Autothrottles are a feature of turbine aircraft that have been around for longer than you might imagine. The Germans employed autothrottles on the first jet fighter, the Me-262, in 1944. As the name implies, autothrottles are essentially automatic throttle controls that operate in conjunction with FADEC to allow a pilot to command the engines to perform identical operation depending on the mode of flight.

Collectively, they allow the pilot to control engine power, usually by specifying either speed or thrust control.


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