Gear Trouble Obviates Oshkosh Appearance
In the words of the first person we contacted
at Eclipse, to get more of the story, "Gee, you guys ARE good!"
If it's news, our ANN News-Spies can be counted
on. They're everywhere, in every organization, at every level. They
might be hiding under your desk, right now -- or sitting at it. (We
love our News-Spies!)
Thursday was supposed to have been just another development
flight in the long series on the way to certification of the
Eclipse personal jet. Things happen in development -- that's why
you test -- and something happened on this particular flight.
On a clear Albuquerque morning at 7000', the idea, as always,
was to get into the air before the runway's density altitude got
too far into the Flight Levels, so it was early-up for the
engineers and test pilot. As usual, CEO Vern Raburn was flying
chase. "I was in the flare when the gear collapsed," he told ANN.
"I just went around."
Raburn explained, "We had an actuator
failure, which caused the right main [gear] leg to collapse on
rollout -- the actuator -- literally the casting -- split open."
Vendor problem, in the qualification or acceptance cycle. "The good
news is, we long ago terminated our contract with that company. We
were just using the old one, because we had the parts," he
"Damage was minimal," Raburn said. It was confined to the
"...flap, flap track, the air data test boom -- beyond that, it was
pretty minimal. There was zero damage to the structure or the skin
-- and absolutely no fuel leak." The way the basic layout is set,
that's the way it could have been predicted. "The plane pretty much
rode on the flap and flap track," Vern noted. "If we had a
right-hand flap in stock, we'd be flying again in a couple
How soon can they get it back together, and flying? That depends
on when the damage assessment is complete, and then on what's in
stock, etc. At any rate, damage is minimal. "Most of the repairs --
with the exception of the flap track -- it's mostly all bolt-on.
We'll be flying again in the rrelatively near future," Raburn was
Until roll-out, everything was according to Hoyle
"The flight had gone fine," Vern remembered, "--more envelope
expansion, systems testing, flutter analysis." Then he turned
philosophical on us: "This is why you do flight testing. It's
unfortunate... I wish it hadn't happened." He added, with a great
deal of relief in his voice, "Test Pilot Bill Bubb did a phenomenal
Oshkosh? Not this year.
The company and the exhibit will be at Oshkosh, of course; but
not the airplane. "We weren't sure we were actually going to OSH
anyway, the flight test program was so active," he noted, adding
that the decision was to have been made on Friday, "... but this
pretty much decided it for us."
What's next? "We're going to purge our inventory. This shouldn't
have happened," the chief said.