NATCA Complaint Comes To Light As VLJ Receives Production
For officials at Eclipse
Aviation, it probably seemed like an eternity waiting for the FAA
to issue a type certificate for the Eclipse 500 very- light-jet.
But the union representing the FAA's inspectors and test pilots
says the process was rushed, and that its members were not allowed
time to do their jobs properly.
The grievance, filed against two FAA inspectors, was made public
over the weekend -- days after Eclipse announced it received
an FAA production certificate for the 500. It was
originally filed in October of last year, according to Tomaso
DiPaolo of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
DiPaolo told the Albuquerque (NM) Journal when the 500 received
its type-certificate last September, "my guys were telling me it
wasn't ready, but the FAA managers went ahead and approved the
plane design. I don't think any of my engineers that were involved
DiPaolo declined to name the inspectors and pilots involved in
the type-certification process. The grievance is still under review
by the FAA.
Critics have accused Eclipse of leaning on local and federal
officials to speed the certification process along -- a charge
DiPaolo downplays, saying he believes certification may have been
rushed on the FAA's part, due to recent pay guidelines tying
performance to manager pay.
"We're very concerned here that there may have been undue
pressure brought on employees because managers had their pay linked
to the success of the Eclipse program," he said. "We'd be more than
happy to see these guys succeed, but we have safety concerns with
Eclipse. We want the FAA to ensure they'll give these guys
FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said the agency does not have any
safety concerns with Eclipse.
"Eclipse Aviation Corp. has satisfactorily completed all
immediate and corrective action plans resulting from the FAA's
production certification audit," he said. "The FAA will, of course,
continue oversight of Eclipse for both production and operational
Eclipse officials -- including company founder and CEO Vern
Raburn -- have lauded the FAA's efforts in assisting the upstart
very-light-jet manufacturer with achieving certification. The
Journal reports FAA representatives worked alongside Eclipse
engineers to solve issues with the 500 -- even on weekends. The
agency also assisted Eclipse in obtaining its 'provisional' TC,
presented at Oshkosh last July (below).
"The very light jet movement, and especially the Eclipse 500,
represents an expansion of the commercialization of air travel,"
Billson said. "They've been terrific helping us realize this