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Monday, June 30, 2008

Eclipse Readies Change to Software for Engine Fault Condition

Eclipse Aviation will incorporate design improvements to the Eclipse 500(r) software to prevent a rare engine fault that may occur if the aircraft's throttle levers are advanced with enough force to exceed the Eclipse 500's FAA-certified design limits. The action is in response to a recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airworthiness Directive on the Eclipse 500 to address a safety issue concerning a failure that resulted in uncontrollable engine thrust and the lack of emergency procedures developed for that failure. The order followed a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation also issued recently. Related Story
Eclipse intends to increase the range limit of the Throttle Quadrant Assembly (TQA) to prevent the fault condition, pending approval from the FAA. These changes will be administered via a software update to all Eclipse 500 owners and operators.
"One of the advantages to having such a technologically-advanced aircraft is that we can quickly isolate the cause of an incident and then rapidly deliver a solution to our customers via a universal software update," said Eclipse President and CEO Vern Raburn. "In contrast to traditional aviation industry approaches, the time and customer inconvenience factor saved is immeasurable."
Earlier this month an Eclipse 500 engine fault occurred during a landing at Chicago Midway International Airport. Within 24 hours, Eclipse had tapped the aircraft's advanced data collection and reporting system to determine that the fault was generated by an exceedance of the Eclipse 500's FAA-certified design limits. The company rapidly issued multiple communications to its customers making them aware of this issue, while providing guidance to help avoid the potential fault and, if necessary, effectively handle this occurrence. These communications were released in advance of the recommendations from the NTSB and an AD from the FAA.
Eclipse also updated the Eclipse 500 flight manual and quick-reference handbook to provide pilot procedures on how to handle a similar incident.
Eclipse also announced that of all the Eclipse 500 aircraft in customer operation, more than eighty percent have been inspected as directed by the AD. Of this group of inspected aircraft, seven have reported fault errors. Four of the seven reported faults were determined to be erroneous owing to noise caused by normal operation of the TQA.
"Interestingly, an analysis of more than 12,000 hours of flight data from across our fleet collected through the Eclipse Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) system reveals that three Eclipse 500 aircraft have experienced the TQA range fault, and one was the aircraft in Chicago," said Raburn. "While this tells us there is an extremely low probability of this fault happening, we are moving very aggressively to ensure it will not occur again. We're working closely with both the staff members of the NTSB and the FAA to understand this condition fully, and put the necessary design improvements in place to safeguard our customers and our fleet."
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