Adaptation of V-Jet II Design
Founder and former Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn was one of the first business executives at Microsoft. Subsequently, Bill Gates became a major stake-holder in the Eclipse project. The VLJ concept has been pursued by a number of manufacturers, and because the V-Jet II had been designed around one of the primary VLJ engines, Eclipse believed it was an ideal design to refine and market.
The airframe was significantly redesigned as an all-metal structure with a T-tail and straight wings. The main cabin shape is essentially all that was retained from the V-Jet II. It was recognized that for an aluminum structure to be cost effective, new manufacturing techniques would have to be developed. One of the primary processes used was friction stir welding, in which the skin and underlying aluminum structure are welded together rather than riveted, as traditional for aluminum aircraft. Anti-corrosion bonding techniques were also developed.
Besides materials processes, the general process of building the airframe was redesigned, with techniques taken from the automotive industry. Traditionally, aircraft structure is mounted in a jig, and the skin is riveted on to the outside of it. For the Eclipse 500, lessons were taken from composite airframe manufacturing, and the aluminum skin is first laid in a mold, and then the structure is built into it. The result is much more precise control of the aircraft's final shape, resulting in a cabin that is more robust and can be pressurized to a higher differential. In addition, the manufacturing techniques are designed so that one crew can assemble an airframe in a single shift. The complete interior is designed to be installed on a moving assembly line in 45 minutes.
Originally Eclipse selected a pair of Williams International EJ-22 engines (a production variant of the FJ22/FJX-2) for the Eclipse 500, but as the aircraft's weight increased, performance was not satisfactory. Pratt & Whitney Canada agreed to participate in the project, and modified the design of their PW615 engine, designating it the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F. The prototype Eclipse 500 first flew with the Williams engines in 2002. The redesign to incorporate the new engines resulted in a significant delay to the development program. The first flight of the Eclipse 500 with the new engines occurred on December 31, 2004.
An Eclipse press release says that its aircraft is "the quietest jet aircraft" and that it is "quieter than virtually all multi engine turboprop and piston aircraft".
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