Problems aboard a San Diego–based “mini-jet” have caused the temporary grounding of the nation’s fleet of Eclipse 500s, a new generation of light executive jets capable of ferrying four business passengers into small airports. On June 5, the pilot of one of the planes — belonging to Coronado’s Kevin Kiernan, a real estate developer with major holdings in Arizona — was coming in for a landing at Chicago’s Midway Airport when the throttle suddenly stuck in the open position. That forced the pilots to pull up and go around while they frantically wrestled with the controls. After reading their manuals, they shut down one engine, then lost control of the other, but were finally able to regain power in both and manage a bumpy landing that blew out two tires. No injuries were reported.
After the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board ordered all the planes grounded until the throttle mechanism of each could be inspected, a move that drew the wrath of Eclipse company founder Vern Raburn, who insisted the aircraft was safe and government regulators were just looking for publicity. “They issued an urgent press release and an urgent safety communiqué on something that had already been taken care of by Eclipse,” Raburn told the Albuquerque Journal. “To call the aircraft unsafe is at best a massively gross exaggeration and at worst it’s just an outright lie.” Officials defended their action, saying that they believed that the mishap had been caused by bad software that needed fixing. Two hundred of the planes have been sold since January of last year. Kiernan’s plane is based at Lindbergh Field’s Jimsair executive jet center. Kiernan did not respond to a request for comment about the incident.