Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Epic LT

Do It Yourself Rocket Ship

ep·ic   [ep-ik]
adj: extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope, majestic; impressively great
Sometimes, a name says it all, and the story of the Epic LT is nothing if not, well—epic. The story starts when you walk up to an Epic LT on the ramp. It's big, it's swoopy, and it's hard to believe that it could possibly have been built from a kit. With exterior dimensions that seem a bit bigger than a TBM 850, the LT looks way too big to be a "homebuilt" airplane.

Even from a distance, the first thing you notice is that the LT looks futuristic, fast and beautiful. The front windshield smoothly swoops back to blend perfectly with the curved lines of the fuselage. Come up close and look along the wing. You'll see that even the leading edge has a gracefully curved sweep with just the right angle of dihedral. Everything is blended and smooth, and I've never seen a single LT where the paint, fit and finish didn't appear to be perfect. I should mention that I see a lot of LTs because my hangar happens to be next door to the Epic Headquarters in the high desert of Bend, Ore. And, even though I see Epic LTs virtually every day, I've never had a chance to fly one. So, when an opportunity came up to take a round-trip ride to Sun Valley, Idaho, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the airplane and its story.

Predawn Preflight
I met Rich Finley, Epic's flight-test and training pilot on the factory ramp at 5:15 a.m. in the predawn darkness for a preflight tour of the airplane. Preflight is pretty standard for a turboprop airplane: checking fuel, oil, tires and control surfaces. The cabin is entered through a large swing-down air-stair door just aft of the wing. In this particular airplane, the cabin door serves as the only emergency exit, though newer planes also have a window-panel emergency exit on the other side of the fuselage. Large oval windows provide plenty of light, and the cabin feels modern and very large. The four comfortable leather seats in back can be arranged to all face forward or arranged in a club configuration. Ample cargo space behind the last row of seats can accommodate up to 300 pounds with additional space for bags between the pilots' seats and the middle seats. Fill the tanks with 292 gallons of Jet A (288 useable), and you can still handle an impressive payload of 1,170 pounds in the cabin—that's six 170-pound adults, each with 25 pounds of bags. This is a true "fill the seats and fill the tanks" airplane.

As I settled into the front left seat, I was impressed by the size of the cockpit—it's comfortable with plenty of headroom and easy access. The large wraparound windshield provides excellent visibility with no side posts to obscure the view. The leather seat was very comfortable, though it was a bit high for me and it had no height adjustment. Which brings up an important point: The LT has evolved rapidly, so aircraft rolling out of the factory have continuously matured over time. Finley emphasized that current airplanes now include fully adjustable electrically actuated seats. Little things like the seat configuration, switch placement or even big things like avionics may vary from one airplane to the next—depending on when the airplane was built. Today, Epic offers a well-equipped "standard" LT configuration, so that buyers will know exactly what they'll get at the end of the process. This approach also brings a high level of standardization to the fleet.

Our airplane for the day was equipped with a three-screen Garmin G900X avionics suite interfaced to a Tru Track Sorcerer autopilot and an Electronics International MVP-50P Engine Analyzer. Overall, this combination provided everything needed for state-of-the-art navigation, communication and engine management. The only thing lacking compared to the airplanes being built today was a flight director, so everything is hand-flown with "raw data." Still, I'm comfortable with the G1000, so the G900X system felt right at home.
Even from a distance, the first thing you notice is that the LT looks futuristic, fast and beautiful. The front windshield smoothly swoops back to blend perfectly with the curved lines of the fuselage. 
Another interesting feature in this particular airplane is that the fuel tanks need to be switched manually every 20 minutes or so. It's not hard to switch tanks—just don't forget! The G900X is set with an alert to check fuel every 20 minutes.


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