Thursday, November 1, 2007
Aerostar 702: Still The Fastest
Forty years after its introduction, the Aerostar remains the world’s fastest, general aviation piston airplane—period
There’s something almost magical about staring out at your own reflection in the left, polished spinner of an Aerostar, watching it whirl along at 2,300 rpm six feet from your left ear. You can see the long nose stretching out in front of you, the ground zipping past below and the sky arcing away above. It’s one of the most satisfying and immediately identifiable experiences in aviation.
For me, the Aerostar has always possessed a charisma that far transcends its pure dollar value. From the first time I flew one in 1975 with the late Jim Miller of Miller Flying Service in Plainview, Texas, I’ve been in love with the type. Back then, Miller was already fanatic about the Aerostar. Over the next 20 years, his dealership was to become one of the world’s most successful at selling Aerostars of all descriptions.
Today, Aerostars are long since out of production, but Aerostar Aircraft (www.aerostaraircraft.com) of Hayden Lake, Idaho, continues to support the type. Aerostar Senior Vice President Jim Christy says his company still does the performance upgrades, serves as a clearinghouse for all things Aerostar, maintains and performs annuals, and sells parts and manuals for all versions of the plane.
I’ve been scheming for years to own an Aerostar, but so far, I haven’t managed to get past a Mooney. That’s okay. It’s probably more than coincidental that Mooneys and Aerostars both demonstrate slick aerodynamics, and they’re the fastest machines in their respective classes.
Two paragraphs of history: Aerostars were born in 1969, a product of the fertile imagination of designer Ted Smith. Smith conceived the Aerostar with the same engines he used on his Shrike Commander, the 290 hp Lycoming IO-540s. The Commander was a large, corporate transport that cruised at about 177 knots. The Aerostar 600 with the same power was an amazing 35 knots faster than the Shrike.
In fact, not only did the Aerostar outpace its own Ted Smith competition, but the turbocharged 601 ran away from everything else in the class. This included such high-powered competition as the P-Baron (two 325 hp Continentals), Twin Bonanza (a pair of geared, 340 hp Lycomings), Cessna 421 (twin, geared, 375 hp Continentals), the Beech Duke (two 380 hp Lycomings) and Piper’s P-Navajo (dual 425 hp, geared Lycs).
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Labels: Piston Twins