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Kathy Barnstorff
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RELEASE : 06-018
NASA-Industry Team Recognizes Aviation Award Winner

NASA, as part of an industry team that worked to revitalize general aviation, congratulates Eclipse Aviation Corporation for winning the most prestigious award in aviation, the Robert J. Collier Trophy.

According to the National Aeronautic Association, Eclipse won the 2005 honor "for leadership, innovation, and the advancement of general aviation" in the production of very light jets.

"NASA is thrilled that the National Aeronautic Association will present the Collier Trophy to a company that is leading the way for general aviation in the twenty-first century," said Bruce J. Holmes, former head of two NASA/industry alliances that worked to improve private plane technology at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. "The Eclipse 500 jet exemplifies some of the innovations that NASA and its partners worked on for more than a decade. As a result of technology investments by government, universities and industry several new aircraft and services are emerging in the marketplace."

The Advanced General Aviation Transportation Experiments consortium and its follow-on, the Small Aircraft Transportation System project, were public-private partnerships that advanced affordable new technologies, operating capabilities and industry standards and certification for next-generation single pilot, near all-weather light airplanes that fly four to six people.

"Winning the Collier Trophy is truly the achievement of a lifetime, and the entire Eclipse team is humbled by this honor," said Vern Raburn, president and chief executive officer of Eclipse Aviation. "We are particularly thankful to the organizations that have partnered with us over the years to make the Eclipse 500 possible. NASA's support in making innovations like friction stir welding a reality have played a critical role in our ability to usher in a new age of low-cost, high-performance very light jets."

Engineers at NASA Langley have worked to verify the effectiveness and safety of Eclipse's friction stir welding manufacturing technique, which was singled out by the Collier Trophy presenters. Welding allows a faster, more automated assembly process.

"No one has ever welded a plane together before. They're usually riveted," said Scott Forth, senior engineer in the Mechanics of Structures and Materials Branch. "Eclipse is using a solid-state weld that doesn't melt the materials. A tool sticks into where parts need to be bonded and it plastically mixes materials together. It makes a really nice weld."

NASA is testing to see how effective the welds are. "We had to come up with all new procedures because the welds have never been tested like we're testing them," said Forth. "Our testing has shown the bond created is incredibly effective … better than I anticipated."

In winning the Collier Trophy the Eclipse Aviation Corporation joins other aviation pioneers including Orville Wright, Howard Hughes, Dick Whitcomb, Chuck Yeager, a number of astronauts and SpaceShipOne.


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