Tom Haines

Think you can fly the Eclipse 500?

May 21, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

A fear that high accident rates early in the life of the very light jet movement will tarnish the new category of airplanes forever, aircraft manufacturers are working hard to make sure pilots emerge from their jet type rating courses well prepared.

In fact, as I learned a few weeks ago, just getting qualified to take a type rating course at Eclipse Aviation, maker of the Eclipse 500 VLJ, can be a challenge.

As I wrote in my Waypoints column in the June issue of AOPA Pilot the flight skills assessment and emergency situation training are thorough and challenging, right down to how to put on the oxygen mask.

Watch me flip an L-39 jet trainer on its back and then get hypoxic in the classroom in this video I made while taking the two-day course in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ever suffered an aircraft upset or hypoxia? Tell us what happened…


16 Responses to “Think you can fly the Eclipse 500?”

  1. Jason Miller Says:

    Terrific video, Tom!

    I have flown aerobatics twice (as well as the Eclipse once) and really enjoyed watching some of your experience. I have yet to endure hypoxia, but have thought going through the high-altitude endorsement might be a good learning experience for me, even though I have no “official” need to do it.

  2. Ray Says:

    Wow – enjoyed the ride. Did you get to keep the helmet?

  3. Tom Haines Says:

    Ray: No joy on the helmet–or the boots or flight suit either. The helmet seems like overkill in the Bonanza, I think. I kind of liked the boots though–meant to support your ankles if you have to bail out of the L-39. The ejection seat is disabled–I”m told it’s a maintenance pig. So we were left with simple strap-on parachutes. Glad we didn’t need them–or the helmet.

  4. Carl Says:

    Nice training and video – how much was the plane again? You guys get to do all the fun… 😉 On the other hand I’m glad it’s not me, especially with only 63% oxygen in my blood.

    More of these clips please.

  5. Frank Hinde Says:

    Hey Tom,

    Nicely done…Great aviation name BTW..:)

    I fly an RV7 and last year did a 10 hour aerobatic course with Steve Wolf in Cresswell Oregon..I must say its the one thing I have done that has greatly improved my flying skills..It has even improved my instrument flying which I do in the RV. The “Don’t pull when upside down” is the one classic mistake that is firmly beaten out of all aerobatic pilots and is especially useful in a slippery plane like an RV…Or an L39 for that matter.

    You can see me here

    Good job..


  6. Jerry A Says:

    Hi Tom,

    Good job! I think this type of training should be a requirement for the type in these new and or old jets.

    I have 7000 +/- TT in Learjets & other assorted jets, mostly Lears. Our initial training in the Lear-24 did not include this type of training, i did have experiance in upset recovery from one of my former employers and found it to be valuable for the jet operation. I thankfully never had the occasion to require the use of this experiance. We did train in the simulator for this type of event.

    I did have experiance in lack of O2 and was well regimented in the avoidance of this sneekie danger.

    When Eclipse first mentioned the additonal training requirement, I thought great idea.


  7. John Says:

    Great video! Looks like great training too.
    I got hypoxic once. I was fairly early on my best flying day ever (a VFR solo round robin in a T-41C [militarized Skyhawk with a 210hp Continental IO-360 and constant-speed prop] Colorado Springs – Leadville – Telluride – Durango – Colorado Springs) working on mountain flying on a beatiful CAVU morning in Spring 2001. I was approaching Gunnison from the east-southeast intending to fly northwest above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. It occurred to me that it was a challenge to pay attention to the Gunnison CTAF, which had on it only one light aircraft working the pattern and a Beech 1900 departing for a scheduled flight. The sudden realization ‘if the radio is a challenge, what else am I doing wrong?’ was an attention-getter! I was at the short-term supplimental oxygen limit and had been at that altitude for about 20 minutes. Terrain allowed a descent within about three minutes, and I decided that given what I was experiencing and descending terrain that I’d fly a little lower than planned. I came out of the noticeably mentally slow condition I had been in after about 1500ft of descent. The rest of the day’s flying was uneventful as far as flight physiology went.
    The thing that sticks in my mind about my hypoxic incident was how insidiously hypoxia comes on. I was physically fine that day, well-nourished, and reasonably well-rested (good night with an early wake-up for a diner breakfast and a sunup launch). I didn’t expect a problem, as I had a fair amount of experience flying Colorado and New Mexico using the time – altitude limits allowed by the FAR to their full advantage, and never had an oxygen saturation problem before (or since). Carbon monoxide wasn’t the problem. (The in-cabin detector never changed color, my symptoms went away after descent, and I had no post-event headache as seems common with folks tangling with CO.) At least I didn’t lose all my wits, as I thought to check the CO detector immediately, shut off the cabin heat, and opened the wing root vents while making what I believe was the correct decision to stay at a mildly hypoxic altitude for about three minutes waitng for the terrain to descend.
    Not only does the loss of mental sharpness come onto you softly and silently, it replaces mental sharpness with a sense of detached contentment that is almost like euphoria. This sense of detached well-being I felt was different than the keyed-up pay-attention mental alertness I strove for during the remainder of my self-administered final exam in mountain flying, and I sure don’t think it made me a very good pilot. I wonder if the story wouldn’t have been worse had it not occurred to me that ‘It shouldn’t be hard to visualize where an airliner departing Gunnison for Denver should be’ and this introspection caused me to see and correct the problem.
    My advice to other pilots exploring high-atitudes the first time:
    – Gain several hours of high-altitude experience, including taking advantage of the FAR’s 30-minute duration altitude limits, to find out how your body reacts. Do this in benign conditions, and take a safety pilot (your mountain flying instructor?) along to start.
    – Even after you learn whether or not your personal absolute cieling for oxygenation agrees with the FAA’s, always be prepared to get surprised – I did appraoching Gunnison, and have never figured out what made that particular segment of high-altitude flight segment different from dozens of others.
    – Plan conservatively for high-atitude flights. Even in Colorado, by choosing routes conforming with the contour of the land, you don’t have to stay high long. I’m glad I had followed the lowest terrain – more aggressive flight planning might have caused me to make tradeoffs between the wait before descending and terrain clearance. Yet another place to ‘always leave yourself an out’.
    – Consider adding monitoring for hypoxic effects to your pre-flight brief and cruise checklist. Maybe there’s not a lot you can do solo, but even a non-pilot passenger can be briefed to speak up if the pilot appears to be losing mental sharpness.

  8. Allen Rohde Says:

    Enjoyed the ride and the extent to which Eclipse goes above and beyond for training. Curious though about the L39, Is there no oxygen mask? I found it strangely absent during your aerobatic flight especially after the forced oxygen example in the hypoxia training. What’s the deal?

  9. Tom Haines Says:

    Thanks for the comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the video. The L-39 is pressurized (and, thankfully–air conditioned) and thus no need for oxygen mask at the altitudes we were at–about 14,000 feet.

  10. John Fellows Says:

    Hi Tom,
    Great vid and audio. Hope you and AOPA do many more like this. I especially liked the brief segment on runaway trim. This topic has come up in every high-perf training program I’ve attended, yet never has the recovery technique suggested in this training been mentioned. As they say, a good pilot is always learning. Thanks!

  11. Martin Says:

    Great video! I fly a corporate jet myself and am eager to see how the VLJ’s integrate with everyone else above FL180. Unfortunately my only introduction so far has been an Eclipse jet entering our traffic pattern doing 280 knots at 1,000′ MSL (Class D airspace- speed limit 200 knots, multi-engine pattern altitude of 1,500′). Talk about a control tower tongue lashing !!!

    I suppose there is a cowboy in every crowd and this gentleman was the exception and not the rule. It has to be quite a rush moving up from a piston to a jet. I flew a turbo-prop before jets, so had a stepping stone instead of an elevator ride to the top.

    The upset training should be mandatory- I get it twice a year at Flight Safety and find it to be quite valuable. Keep up the good work!!

  12. Jacob Bushnell Says:

    Thanks for the video, that was awesome! I got to take a tour of the Eclipse factory last September and was quite impresed. Sure wish I could have flown one!

  13. Fernando Russek Says:

    Nice video, my hipoxia incident: I was flying IFR at 26,000 ft in my Cessna T210J at night and my oxigen line stopped flowing oxigen, I lost senses and went to sleep, woke up at 10,000 ft ,spiraling at 190 kts and a panicated passanger, I borrowed his mask and leveled the airplene, and then I informed ATC about my altitude change by fact and request.

    Keep up with your nice and good work.

  14. G. Bassett Says:

    Can’t find the video mentioned on your Eclipse blog…where is it?
    Thanks, grb

  15. Dale E. Hamilton Says:

    Outstanding! Enjoyed it very much. I hope the VLJ market becomes very large. Good luck

    to all involved.

  16. Dale E. Hamilton Says:

    Sorry about the spacing error in my first comment. I will have to remember the computer is not a typwriter.

Leave a Reply