Eclipse Test Fleet Achieves 500 Flight Hours
The Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ) test fleet has exceeded 500 total flight hours as Eclipse Aviation continues to work toward FAA certification. Each test aircraft has demonstrated the ability to fly multiple flights per day while safely and successfully completing significant test points.

"Our recent progress demonstrates that we will deliver what we promised to our customers—a jet that will withstand and exceed the rigors of high-cycle operations," said Vern Raburn, president and CEO.

The test fleet of five FAA-conforming aircraft has completed several critical testing milestones, including lightweight foreign object debris (FOD) testing at various throttle settings up to take-off thrust, and at a variety of speeds ranging from standstill to 70 knots; developmental water ingestion testing, which taxied the jet through a ½ inch trough of water at speeds up to 100 knots to simulate heavy rain conditions; 20 landings in one day on one aircraft to test tire wear; achieving more than 100 test points on a single aircraft in one day; and endurance testing with single flight durations of more than three hours.

For more information on Eclipse Aviation and the Eclipse 500 visit


Arizona Airport New Home To Rare Travel Air 
The world's only remaining example of a Travel Air SA-6000-A has been meticulously restored over a four-year period and is available for viewing at Valle Airport (40G), just north of Williams, Arizona.

The aircraft, dubbed the "Limousine of the Air" by its Stearman, Beechcraft and Cessna creators, came equipped with six wicker seats in ample cabin space and a clear view into the cockpit. Several were equipped with floats and used in Canada to move people to and from gold mines. The aircraft, restored by Jim Helfrich, resembles those used by Grand Canyon Airlines to fly passengers over the canyon. It has a wingspan of 54'5" and is powered by a R1340, 450-hp Pratt & Whitney engine.


When Lockheed Martin takes over flight service station services next Tuesday, pilots probably won't notice the difference. Phone numbers, frequencies, and even FSS specialists all are expected to remain the same. And AOPA has been assured that Lockheed Martin has detailed transition plans to ensure that pilots receive the services they need. "We are in regular communication with the FAA and Lockheed, and they understand the importance of maintaining service to pilots throughout the transition period," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "If members have problems with FSS, we can work quickly to get those concerns addressed." To ensure that the transition goes as planned, Lockheed and the FAA will operate a 24-hour operations center that will act as a point of contact to ensure continuity of services. AOPA has been told that about 1,900 of the current 2,000 FSS employees have accepted job offers from Lockheed Martin, but the company also has developed contingency plans should any last-minute issues arise during the initial transition. Looking ahead, pilots should see improved services over the next 18 months as Lockheed consolidates FSS facilities, implements performance guarantees, and launches the Flight Service 21 (FS21) Web portal for pilots nationwide to obtain preflight briefings, file flight plans, and get graphical flight planning and weather products. In the meantime, AOPA is stressing the importance of maintaining and supporting both existing DUAT services, which will continue to be an important backup system and will allow pilots to continue to use existing flight planning software based on the DUAT system. See AOPA Online.


When a new GPS satellite was launched on Sunday, some AOPA members wondered what it means for general aviation. The answer: GPS navigation will be around for a long time to come. The new satellite replaces an aging bird that's nearing the end of its useful life, ensuring that the GPS signal will continue to be available even as some older satellites are taken off line. "The latest launch represents a firm commitment to satellite navigation and demonstrates that there will be plenty of assets in space to ensure that the GPS signal is always available," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA senior director of advanced technology. "That's especially important for general aviation as more GPS-based wide area augmentation system (WAAS) approaches are created." WAAS approaches allow for ILS-like minima without the expensive ground-based equipment. There are already several "hot spare" satellites in orbit should a GPS signal fail, and GPS availability is not a concern at this time. The Air Force expects to launch an average of three new GPS satellites each year to replace older equipment.


Time and time again, tangles with thunderstorms yield disastrous results. On September 24, 2002, the pilot of a Piper Saratoga and his passenger were killed after their aircraft broke up during an encounter with a thunderstorm over Yeehaw Junction, Florida. Read what went wrong in this special report prepared by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, exclusively for ePilot readers.


Question: When I hear "thunderstorm in the vicinity" from the airport automated weather report, how close is the storm to the airport?

Answer: Advisory Circular 150/5220-16C helps define the criteria for how thunderstorms are reported via an automated weather report. The sensors use lightning strike detection within a 30-nautical-mile ring around the airport to determine how to report thunderstorm activity. If a thunderstorm is within 5 nm of an airport, you will hear "thunderstorm at the airport." Between 5 nm and 10 nm, you will hear "thunderstorm in the vicinity." If a thunderstorm is detected more than 10 nm and within 30 nm from the airport, you will hear a quadrant or sector designation. For example, "lightning northeast" or "lightning southwest and north." For information on how ATC services can assist you when thunderstorms are along your route, try the minicourse provided by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. You'll also find a collection of thunderstorm articles and information in AOPA's subject report, Thunderstorm Avoidance.