Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Congratulations, Columbia 400

Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall mountains in a single bound, look, up in the flight levels, it’s the 230-plus-knot certified Lancair single!

Congratulations, Columbia 400Any aircraft manufacturer who is serious about marketing big-bore singles for global application has got to at least consider turbocharging. There’s just too much of the world that lies a half-mile or more above sea level to ignore that market. Sale of successful heavy-breathers have proven that there’s money to be made in marketing for pilots who need to operate from the middle density altitudes, if not necessarily in the flight levels." />

Other changes include moving the dual batteries off the forward firewall and back into an equipment bay behind the aft bulkhead to help balance the extra weight of the turbos and intercoolers. The Columbia 400 will include onboard oxygen as standard, three bottles totaling 50-cubic-feet capacity and mounted in a wing locker. Using Nelson flow Oximizers, the O2 supply should support four folks for three hours at FL250.

“By early summer, we hope to introduce a climate control system that will work very similar to one in a Lexus or Mercedes,” comments Bowen. “Heating and air conditioning have often been deficiencies in single-engine airplanes, but they won’t be on this one. You’ll merely set the temperature you want, and the thermostat will maintain it. There won’t be any need to turn off the unit for takeoff, either. Even in the passive vent mode, the new system will be more efficient because of a NACA scoop on the side of the cowling.”

The 400 will share the 300/350’s generous cabin, 49 inches across by 51 inches tall. So there’s little question that even big pilots will fit into the available space.

In keeping with the trend toward multi-talented instrument and navigation avionics, the Columbia 400’s panel offers the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra system, a two-screen unit featuring the EXP5000 primary flight display with an integrated, solid-state air data and attitude and reference, along with an EX5000 multi-function display for navigation awareness and systems instrumentation. The MFD includes virtually every parameter of aircraft system and engine performance, including percentage power.

Gross weight is up 200 pounds from the 300/350’s 3,400 pounds, and that demanded a stronger gear, contributing to delays in certification. The higher gross was necessary to accommodate the weight of turbos, intercoolers, oxygen bottles and other attributes of a turbocharged airplane, but it also includes about 100 additional paying pounds. Bowen reported that the first heavily-equipped production 400 coming down the assembly line at Bend would probably wind up at about 2,500 pounds, leaving an 1,100-pound useful load. Subtract 588 pounds of fuel, and you’d be left with a 512-pound allowance, not an unusual payload among big-bore four-seaters. (Keep in mind that if you do depart at gross, you’ll need to burn down to the FAA’s mandated 95% of gross for landing, in this case, 3,420 pounds.)

The combination of Lance Neibauer’s innovative design talent and Tom Bowen’s engineering skills has produced an airplane that should turn in stellar performance, not unusual for a Lancair product. Climb from sea level runs 1,200 to 1,300 fpm, but the better news is you can maintain at least 1,000 fpm into the high teens. With full power available all the way to the airplane’s max operating altitude, expect to see 500 fpm or more at FL250. In other words, 25,000 feet is well below the airplane’s service ceiling.

High cruise at 18,000 feet is well named. It’s been pegged at 230 knots, which should make the Lancair 400 the fastest production single in the world. A solid overcast on the day of my flights limited us to 10,500 feet (the airplane was still in a non-IFR experimental category at the time), so I wasn’t able to verify the cruise spec. A speed of 210 knots was about the limit at the lower altitude, but a little extrapolation suggests that 225 to 230 knots might not be far off the mark at FL180.

Labels: Piston Singles


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