As reported in the Wall Street Journal…
High-level Federal Aviation Administration officials gave preferential treatment to the maker of Eclipse personal jets, according to House Transportation Committee investigators, by allegedly overlooking design problems, minimizing test-flight malfunctions and overruling concerns inside the agency before approving the innovative aircraft in 2007.
A House Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday is expected to feature such criticism from lawmakers and the Department of Transportation’s inspector general, along with a number of FAA officials asserting that they were pressured by their bosses to go easy on Eclipse Aviation Corp. Committee investigators say that before and after the twin-engine jet won the FAA’s approval, there were repeated instances of cockpit displays going black, wing flaps malfunctioning and other technical and software problems.
In testimony prepared for the hearing, Inspector General Calvin Scovel III concludes that the Eclipse 500 jet won FAA certification "despite unresolved design problems’’ and “known deficiencies” in the company’s quality control systems. The testimony also indicates that the FAA overruled some of its own experts in approving single-pilot operation for the jets, and a former agency official took a high-ranking job with the plane’s builder where he served “as the focal point” for FAA interaction.
Other FAA critics have alleged that under pressure from Eclipse’s management, the agency rushed the approval process and transferred or intimidated midlevel FAA officials who resisted or asked too many tough questions.
The issue has broad implications for the aerospace industry because Eclipse was seen as the trendsetter for an anticipated wave of so-called very light jets, using novel materials, manufacturing methods and training procedures.