Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Lancair Evolution: Revolutionary Homebuilt
Lancair reaches for new horizons in four-place homebuilts with the Evolution propjet
In-flight handling at a gross weight well above two tons is lighter than you might expect, partially because of the Frise ailerons and cruise speeds that impart plenty of bite to the control surfaces. Roll rate is surprisingly quick, and pitch authority is excellent with the larger tail surfaces. Trim is available for ailerons and elevator through a “Chinese hat” pipper switch atop the side stick. Adverse yaw is virtually nonexistent, and the airplane makes coordinated turns to 45 degrees of bank with feet on the floor.
With that fat, four-blade Hartzell out front, coming down is as easy as going up. The Evolution doesn’t employ speed brakes for descent, because it doesn’t need them. Pull the thrust to idle, hold the speed, and the airplane will drop earthward at 3,000 fpm. The universal rule with turbines is to stay as high as possible for as long as possible, and the huge paddle blades out front help expedite that process.
In landing mode, you can fly the Evolution pretty much as you would any heavy single or light twin. That means with some power down to the flare and then a reduction to flight idle as the airplane touches down. The Fowler flaps are large and effective, and at a full 50 degrees of travel (yes, 50 degrees), they reduce stall from 75 knots down to 61 knots, again in compliance with Part 23 standards. This means 85 or even 80 knots is plenty across the fence when you’re fully configured.
The actual touchdown is an anticlimax, a result of long-throw, trailing-beam gear that forgives even the klutziest approaches. The Evolution can land and grind to a stop in 1,000 feet with help from reverse thrust. That’s roughly the same horizontal distance as for takeoff.
As you might imagine, a turbine-powered, four-seat, pressurized single doesn’t come cheap, even a homebuilt one. Airframe kit price is $250,000, and if you opt for a new PT6A, expect to pay about $435,000 more. Counting a reasonable stack of avionics and all the usual add-ons, Lancair suggests you’ll be into a turbine-powered Evolution at just under $1 million when you’re done. If you choose a smaller mid-time PT6A, such as a 21, you could build an Evolution for around $700,000. (You can also build the Evolution with a piston engine, an electronically controlled 350 hp Lycoming TIO-540A.)
While $1 million isn’t as intimidating a number as it was in the days of the VariViggen, it won’t produce a finished machine. You do still have to build the airplane. In this age of quick-build kits, construction time is estimated at 1,000 hours for the airframe, plus another 200 hours for the panel and engine mount. If you build the airplane yourself on a part-time basis, working 20 hours a week, you’d need about 60 weeks to complete the project. Lancair’s two-week build shop program completes the more difficult tasks and trains you in composite construction.
That’s a sizeable investment of both time and money, but it produces an airplane with performance well above anything imaginable in the homebuilt world a few years ago. The Evolution is one of a new generation of homebuilts, designed and constructed to compete head-on with the highest-performance production models of the 21st century.
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