Monday, September 1, 2008
Epic LT: King Kong Turboprop
Rick Schrameck’s single-engine turboprop has incredible power, performance and payload—and it’s a homebuilt
|Nearly 30 years ago, I spent several days at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, participating in a Red Flag exercise and flying the amazing F-15 Eagle with Lieutenant Colonel Timothy O’Keefe, veteran fighter pilot and then-commander of the 433rd Fighter Weapons Squadron. For a general aviation pilot, the F-15 experience was an eye-opener into the world of the ultimate fighter, an exercise in maximum speed and seemingly limitless power.|
Nearly 30 years ago, I spent several days at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, participating in a Red Flag exercise and flying the amazing F-15 Eagle with Lieutenant Colonel Timothy O’Keefe, veteran fighter pilot and then-commander of the 433rd Fighter Weapons Squadron. For a general aviation pilot, the F-15 experience was an eye-opener into the world of the ultimate fighter, an exercise in maximum speed and seemingly limitless power. When we got back on the ground at Nellis, I jokingly asked Colonel O’Keefe if the airplane had enough power. He looked me straight in the eye and said, with only a slight hint of humor, “You can never have enough power.”
Colonel O’Keefe would love the Epic LT. In general aviation ranks, Rick Schrameck’s innovative airplane is something else. Schrameck, a Las Vegas–based entrepreneur, delights in shaking up the aviation industry, and Epic Aircraft does exactly that.
The Epic LT is that rare machine, a six-place, corporate turboprop that’s a homebuilt—at least for now. (The plan is to offer it as a certified airplane, eventually.)
Before you scoff at the very concept of a luxurious and turbine-powered machine produced as a homebuilt, consider that designer Lance Neibauer conceived the innovative Lancair IVP as a four-seat, pressurized, piston homebuilt nearly 20 years ago. Some IVP builders have opted for small turbines in place of the standard Continental TSIO-550s on their Lancairs.
Epic’s concept isn’t as far-fetched as you might imagine, despite a kit price of $1.525 million (including a new engine). Such an admission price attracts a different class of “homebuilders”—mostly doctors, lawyers and CEOs.
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|Epic Aircraft’s chief pilot and vice president of sales, Mike Hooper (left), in the left seat of the Epic LT. A sizeable space between first- and second-row seating (right) allows for reclining or for the installation of an entertainment or refreshment center. |
Some 20 airplanes have already been completed at Epic’s Bend, Ore., headquarters, and another 15 kits are under construction. That represents an impressive $40 million in homebuilt turboprops.
The Epic premiered four years ago at Oshkosh and took nearly everyone by surprise. Fit and finish was outstanding for a prototype homebuilt, but I’ve seen a half-dozen other Epics since then, and they’ve all manifested the same attention to detail.
An all-composite design, the Epic LT resembles a more aerodynamic Piper Meridian with a stretched fuselage and a significantly tapered appearance. The slightly elliptical, carbon-fiber wing is a surprisingly thick NACA 012 natural laminar flow (NLF) design. The “012” designation represents a 12% thickness (wing thickness divided by chord). That seems unusually thick for a high-speed homebuilt, but the numbers suggest it works well.
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