Eclipse air travel is having A hooligan summer.
The manufacturer of the six-seat, 33-foot, 3,500 break up really lightly fly has racked upwards orders for more than 2,000 of its Eclipse 500s, but things aren't going all that well. The company's production line has been a mess, and Eclipse has been forced to push back customer deliveries after vital suppliers missed deadlines.
Last month, Eclipse's Board of Directors unceremoniously dumped founder and CEO Vern Rayburn when investors made it clear they weren't all that excited about injecting cash into the company if he stayed. And now there are safety problems that would make even the most fearless flier think about going Greyhound.
It's the kind of stuff you'd rather not think about when boarding a plane:, smoke streaming from a cockpit display, pixilated flight display monitors, failed communications and navigation electronics, random autopilot disengagement, landing gear indication problems, and so on. Aviation.com has a complete list.
It's not Eclipse's first safety slip this summer. In June, the FAA issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive (AD 2008-13-51, if you're interested), which grounded all Eclipse 500s after a botched landing at Chicago's Midway airport. The FAA cleared the 500 for flight the next day, but still, stuff like this doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
The FAA announced last week that it has launched an investigation into these latest safety allegations, though its worth noting that they're the ones who approved the plane for flight in the first place. Aviation.com also points out that the FAA's 2006 certification for the Eclipse 500 happened on the last day of the agency's fiscal year, and strangely enough, on a Saturday. Did this unorthodox timing have anything to do with the fact that bonuses for FAA managers are tied to certification numbers? the agency says no, but it does seem just slightly suspicious.
Photo by Flickr user Hyku