The Federal Aviation Administration is coming under yet another Department of Transportation Inspector General investigation, this time for its handling of the certification of the Eclipse 500 nearly two years ago (BA, Oct. 9, 2007/160). The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has requested at least three reviews of FAA airline oversight in the past year, asked for the IG to examine the Eclipse 500 certification process. The T&I Committee also is looking into the matter, a committee spokesman said, saying that some questions have been raised about whether FAA certified the aircraft properly. He was unable to provide any details about what those questions involved and did not have a timeline on when the investigation might be completed.
But the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents FAA certification engineers, had filed a grievance in October 2006 claiming that the FAA had issued a type certificate "without allowing the aircraft certification engineers and flight test pilots to properly complete their assigned certification/safety responsibilities." The grievance added that certification engineers and flight test pilots "had several outstanding safety/regulatory issues identified" prior to issuance of the certification, and claimed that the TC was granted in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The grievance further claimed that the issuance of the TC had a "significant adverse effect on the professionalism and performance" of FAA certification employees. "The safety mission is to keep safe the lives of the flying public and not to ´save companies,´" the NATCA grievance stated, adding the employees "should be applauded for their efforts to maintain safety-first engineering principles and not rebuked or yelled at in meetings."
Eclipse CEO and President Vern Raburn told BA that FAA notified the company about the investigation, but said neither the IG nor the committee has contacted Eclipse. "We don´t know what the allegations are," he said, adding, "There seems to be a political agenda." Raburn called the Eclipse 500 the "most tested Part 23 aircraft in decades," noting that it had amassed 5,000 flight hours leading up to certification. He acknowledged that the company had some outstanding issues that it continued to work on after certification, such as flight into known icing. But there were no outstanding issues that would have prevented certification, he said. He also noted that the FAA certification workers spent long hours working collaboratively with the company.