Eclipse to Build Aviation Manufacturing Plant in NM

Fri November 08, 2002 - National Edition

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) _ Eclipse Aviation has announced plans to build a special manufacturing plant for welding fuselage parts for its jet planes.

The plant will be in addition to the company’s proposed factory at Double Eagle II airport west of Albuquerque.

Work on the new plant began last month and construction is expected to be finished in March, Eclipse officials said Wednesday.

The building will house Eclipse Aviation’s friction-stir welding unit, which will weld airplane fuselage parts using a process the company says will help reduce the cost of its six-seat, twin-engine Eclipse 500.

”We are pleased to make yet another step toward delivering the Eclipse 500 jet in production volumes,’ Eclipse president Vern Raburn said in a news release.

The welding center will be within a few miles of Eclipse Aviation’s current location at the Albuquerque International Sunport.

”We decided to build the friction-stir welding unit because we don’t have enough room to do welding at our current location,’ said Eclipse spokeswoman Cory Canada.

And, the company’s factory west of Albuquerque won’t be built for another three years, which won’t be soon enough for small-scale production that Eclipse hopes to start in 2003 and 2004, Canada said.

Once finished, officials said the welding plant will employ about 70 people.

Friction-stir welding refers to a process Eclipse uses to bind the thin sheets of aluminum it uses for its fuselages and skins. Friction is used to heat the metal to near melting temperatures so the pieces can be joined without compromising structural integrity.

Eclipse Aviation received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration in May to use the welding process instead of rivets in the construction of its jet planes.

The company hopes to receive FAA certification of the Eclipse 500 in December 2003, then begin delivering them to buyers in January 2004.

The new aircraft, which uses two small turbofan engines, would be the industry’s lowest priced jet plane with a price tag of about $850,000.