Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Extra For The High Road

A pressurized, turbine, high-speed cruiser from Extra Aircraft

Entry to the Extra’s cabin is through a door below the left wing. Once inside, it’s immediately obvious this would be a very comfortable place to travel, 55 inches across by 49 inches tall, nearly the same as a Twin Commander. The front office is configured hard by the windshield, which has a fast taper on both sides, wrapping up and over the two pilots.

Extra opted for a T-configuration in the tail to lift the elevator up out of the prop wash and thereby minimize pitch excursions associated with power changes. Pitch control in the Extra is right now, regardless of airspeed or power setting.

Normal approaches work well at between 90 and 120 knots. With the benefit of turbine power, the airplane can use any smooth, unobstructed, 2,000-foot runway. The retraction mechanism looks fairly fragile, but Walter Extra insists it has been tested repeatedly on turf runways without problems.

Standard avionics on the Extra 500 will be the Avidyne Entegra R9, a fully integrated flat-panel display controlled by a qwerty keyboard. Like all single-engine turbines these days, the standard airplane will come equipped with everything you could reasonably ask.

Looking Forward
Company CEO Ken Keith is planning to build a production facility in the U.S. to facilitate domestic production. Keep in mind, this isn’t a conventional aluminum machine put together with rivets. In fact, it’s in some respects closer to many modern composite homebuilt designs than to conventional production airplanes. 

The carbon-fiber airplane will demand exotic construction techniques, but Keith is confident the recent emphasis on composites in commercial and military aircraft construction should provide a strong labor base of technicians with reasonable expertise.

For the buyer, a piece of that expertise will cost you $1.75 million a copy plus options. That makes the Extra 500 the least expensive certified jetprop on the market. Walter Extra’s innovative turboprop has already earned EASA certification (in Europe). The airplane we flew had been delivered to its German owner who had leased it back to Extra for the U.S. tour. An American reciprocal production certificate probably won’t be long in coming.

Make no mistake, the Extra 500 is unlike any existing production, single-engine turboprop. The configuration is unique, and the operating cost is the lowest in the class. Ken Keith and Walter Extra are hoping their unusual single-engine prop jet will find favor on the world market.

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