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
“The STC for the higher gross weight demanded quite a bit of beef-up to handle the 6,500-pound landing weight,” says Christy. “We had to prove the airplane could withstand a 3-G jolt on landing, and that required a stronger main and nosegear structure, plus thicker wing-skin doublers and larger wheels and brakes with higher-ply tires. It was a major revision, but it produced the best payload of any six-seat airplane on the market.”
Ted Smith did things his own way, and that’s apparent in the Aerostar’s design and systems. Aerostars aren’t cabin-class airplanes in the classic sense. You might say they’re reverse cabin class: Everyone climbs aboard from the front and moves aft rather than vice versa.
The double-clamshell door is directly abeam the pilot station, and the bottom clamshell serves as the single step for entry. The 702 sits low, so two steps and you’re in. An advantage of this system is that the pilot is the only one who can latch the door, so if it’s not shut properly, the captain has only himself to blame.
Once you’re closed inside, the cabin is a comfortable place in which to travel. Pressurization differential is 5.5 psi, providing an 8,000-foot cabin altitude at 25,000 feet. The windows are larger than in almost any other pressurized airplane, making the interior seem even roomier. The nearly 46-inch width translates all the way from the front to the rear seats.
Technically, the Aerostar is legal for seven people in a two/two/three configuration, but the vast majority of the type wind up configured for five, limiting the rear seat to two and removing the second-row left. With the second-row right seat modified to swivel, this opens up access to the fold-out executive table and the rear bench seat. It also eliminates the need to negotiate an aisle.
It’s ironic that Ted Smith was widely criticized for designing the Aerostar with nearly all-electric systems. Today, more and more general aviation airplanes employ pure electric systems, dispensing with pneumatic and hydraulic operation whenever possible.
On the Aerostar, even the fuel selectors are electric. The selectors are three position—off, on and cross-feed—and you can hear the gentle, characteristic “woo” of the valve when you position the switch. If you simply select “on” prior to start and leave the selector alone, the system is fairly trouble free. Each engine will feed from its respective wing tank and the fuselage tank.
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