Eclipse Transition

July 17, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

A friend and ASF donor took me to lunch in his brand new Eclipse yesterday. As you’ll read in the August issue of AOPA Pilot, Editor-in-chief Tom Haines also earned his EA-500S type rating. I have three observations after the ride.

1. The FAA and Eclipse do not give away the ratings – it is a thorough and rigorous process involving simulation, lots of ground training and mentoring on actual trips until the experienced mentor jet pilot in the right seat thinks you’re ready. My friend is multi-thousand hour Baron pilot and has a Citation type rating but no real jet time. He is a meticulous and cautious engineer – a perfect mind set for this and he agreed with Haines that his plate was full.

2. Higher Power Aviation, who does the training for Eclipse, follows a well-defined process to prepare customers for the check ride. In flying fast airplanes the profile is everything. Plug in power settings, and configuration and shazzam, the aircraft falls into predictable performance on the descent, on the ILS, in holding etc. However, to make the speed differential less daunting and to get people through the type ride, the training profile bears little resemblance to what real world ATC needs.

As it is currently being taught, fly the approach at Vref plus 10 knots from the final approach fix inbound. Try that any busy airport with appreciable jet traffic and you’ll hear words you never heard in the bible as controllers and the pilots behind you try to resolve the ensuing traffic tie-up. In the real world, it’s often 150-170 knots to the marker. To be fair, this how the airlines teach their new hires and then when everyone gets on the line, the realities take over. The mentor pilot for my friend gently explained how things were and proceeded with his reprogramming. Seems to me, even if it takes a little longer, we should teach real world profiles right from the beginning. One set of numbers to remember and more practice in getting right.

3. Despite the marketing claims to the contrary, at least with early versions of the VLJ, it looks much like jet flying to me in terms of single pilot workload. Not too bad in low density airspace or at altitude and really intense on short legs or in high density. It’s good they don’t give the type ratings away.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • John Wright

    As a recently type rated EA500S pilot I agree that it is good that they don’t give the type ratings away, but why should an aircraft that is designed to fly a stablized approach at Vref + 10 (about 105kts) be required to fly approaches at 150-170 kts just to keep controllers from using words not found in the Bible? Flying an approach in IMC is all about safety, not what ATC needs. Let’s all remember that ATC is there to provide safety and pilot separation/support and our goal as pilots should be to fly approaches within design limits and according to what provides the most stablized approach. For an Eclipse pilot to fly an approach at 160 kts means that full flaps can’t be used until below 120 kts. That means the pilot must somehow reduce airspeed to 120 while on the glideslope. Large power and airspeed reductions make flying a stablized approach more difficult and in fact are not stablized approaches. ATC should allow sufficient spacing for aircraft with different approach speeds. ATC is here to serve pilots and their passengers, not the other way around.

  • Jean Schwarzkopf

    You are correct when you say Vref + 10 is the best way to fly the approach. However after 23,000 hours and 20 years of airline flying I’m here to tell you it ain’t gonna happen. Us airline types hate being told to maintain 200 to the marker and it makes it hard for us to slow down as well. Usually this is only done during VFR conditions. If you are asked to do something you can’t do simply say “unable”. I’ve done it many times. Some controlers are not aware of your aircrafts capabilities.

  • http://none Ron Talcott

    John, the manufacturer designed the airplane for Vref + 10 approach speed. It is designed to fly into many different airports, big and small. It has good shorter field performance when slowed to Vref. Some manufacturers also have delayed flap approaches to allow for higher approach speeds when ATC requires them. You still have to be stabilized by 1000 feet AGL (IMC) or 500 feet (VMC). And you are correct that making large airspeed changes during final approach on precision approaches makes “precision” difficult. We fly in an aviation community where we need to take our fellow pilots (and airplanes full of paying passengers) into consideration. If you want to fly into an airport with heavy airline traffic, you must be able to “keep your speed up” as ATC requests. Practice it with a mentor. If you don’t feel comfortable with a higher speed approach when ATC requests it, follow Jean’s advice and say “unable!” Where ever you fly, keep your common sense working and fly within your abilities. ATC is a service organization, and they do a fantastic job at major airports getting the most airplanes in and out possible. The Eclipse and VLJs in general are “new” to them. As they get experience with the Eclipse, they will do what they can to accomodate you. Enjoy your new type rating in the EA500. Earning the “S” is not easy as Bruce pointed out..

  • Rob Bremmer

    An excellent article. I just discovered this blog. It has inspired me to start a “best aviation blogs’ section on my own blog, at This is the founding addition to the list. ~ Robert Bremmer.

  • Mark McCormick

    Let’s remember why we perform stabilized approaches in jets. It is to have
    the engines spooled up at 500 feet so we are not left with high drag and
    no thrust as the ground rises up to smack us. See Thurmon Munson and
    more than one 727 crash in the old days. In VMC anything pretty much goes
    down to 500 ft. It may not be pretty and if it isn’t stabilized at 500 ft then
    go around. Also, think about the wind. Does the Eclipse show winds? Tailwind
    aloft? Then get slow early. 40 knot headwind at ORD? You are going to be
    doing 65kt ground speed with a 20 mile line of heavies behind you. This is the
    real world! What you get in the sim is what we in the airlines call
    LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR training. You can do better.

  • Steven Armitage

    Good comments from the readers. I agree, there needs to be some degree of real world training. If the “Light” pilots are going to “insist” on their rights to fly into heavy traffic airports then some give and take is needed or be ready for more FAA rulings re:GA ops. Try flying into ORD on the dark and stormy night and slow the entire operation down. I tried to anticipate slowing to make a VFR base leg once at ORD! you guessed it, 360’s over the lake because I tried to out guess the controler. With the traffic volume, speed, arrivals, departures they do not have the option to allow everything to grind to a halt while a pilot with a lot of money and no real world experience insists on doing his thing. I’ve been in both worlds, GA and aircarrier, it’s going to be a problem mixing the toy jets and heavy carriers, especially when things get dicey out there. Real world training? how about minimum training hours set for flying in and out of ORD, LGA, and such, in VFR and IFR and at peak hours? hang on and buckle down.

  • Robert Barnes

    In December 2006, an informal group of VLJ stakeholders began discussing the key issues relating to VLJ pilot training with the ultimate goal of helping to improve VLJ operational safety. This discussion has now grown to include more than 300 aviation professionals representing VLJ training stakeholders from Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and North America. It has generated more than 200 pages of discussion summaries that identify key stakeholder issues and concerns relating to VLJ training best practices. And, it has made specific recommendations regarding the development of such best practices.

    This discussion is not simply about what Eclipse or Cessna are doing. It is about learning from their successes and failures to help improve all VLJ training programs both now and in the future. Whether participants agree or disagree with the comments made, all contributions to this discussion are important. We simply can not wait until someone unfortunately dies in a VLJ to ensure that VLJ training programs are the best that they can possibly be.

    During February 2008, an on-line survey was conducted. Eighty-four percent of nearly 400 respondents indicated that there should be some form of international VLJ training best practices created to help manufacturers, training providers, and insurers more effectively approach those VLJ training activities (including mentoring) that are being proposed beyond current regulatory guidance.

    From the discussion comments received thus far, FAA appears to feel that everything is fine the way it is; EASA appears to be seeking a more regulated solution; Cessna and Eclipse have different training approaches, and insurers seem to prefer to treat each applicant as a unique case. What will happen when there are 10 or more VLJ manufacturers all conducting their own versions of VLJ training and sales start approaching projections? It appears that the need for industry training best practices continues to exist and may even be increasing in importance.

    If you would like to participate in this international discussion, contact Robert Barnes at [email protected].

  • bertie

    A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way he steadily raises his level of aspiration.