Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Lancair Evolution: Revolutionary Homebuilt
Lancair reaches for new horizons in four-place homebuilts with the Evolution propjet
The Evolution’s cabin is tall and wide, roughly four feet by four feet, resembling the production Columbia 400 (now Cessna 400 Corvalis TT) built across town in Redmond’s sister city of Bend, Ore. This is a true four-place airplane, willing to transport a full string quartet and their instruments (though you might want to forget the bass) for the long haul. Lancair’s goal was a 957-pound payload with a full 146 gallons of Jet A in the wet wing tanks (optional fuel is 169 gallons). In theory, this should allow for four full-sized folks plus 120 pounds of baggage, two violins and a cello.
The panel on the airplane features the Garmin G900X flat-panel display, essentially the experimental aircraft version of the popular G1000 installed in Mooneys, Cessnas, Beechcrafts, Diamonds, Cirruses and some Pipers. The G1000’s primary mission is to simplify the processing of all relevant attitude, position and system information, and that becomes more critical on turbine and jet aircraft. If you’re traveling at five miles a minute, anything you can do to simplify the panel and instrument readout is a welcome improvement.
|Nonin FlightStart Pulse Oximeter |
FlightStat is an oximeter that’s small enough for practical use in the cockpit (it’s not much bigger than your thumb). Two AAA alkaline batteries provide power for about 18 hours of continuous operation, or 1,600 spot checks.
The launch control system on the Evolution is a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135A turboprop, limited to a max 750 shp in flight and 550 shp for takeoff. The engine is recommended for a 3,600-hour TBO. Like most P&W PT6s, the 135A is dramatically underworked, and it’s reasonable to assume a well-treated engine will last longer than you will. Typical of turbines, the Evolution’s powerful turbine mill is uncannily smooth and powerful, and it makes virtually any piston engine feel like the paint-shaking machine at Home Depot. Response isn’t quite as instantaneous, and there’s copious power.
The Evolution is otter-sleek and one of the most aerodynamically clean homebuilts you’ll find, constructed almost entirely of carbon fiber. The prototype is pure white with a few stripes, and that tends to accentuate the airplane’s low-drag profile. The white overall color, though not mandatory, is a strong recommendation on most composite designs to keep internal structural temperatures in check. Composite materials tend to destabilize at sustained extremely high temperatures. You’d probably need to park the airplane for a week in August at Death Valley to exceed the allowable limits, but aluminum airplanes don’t suffer the same limitations.
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