The history of late-in-the-year flights by companies looking to make good on promises to fly before year-end is long, and 2015’s success story goes to Epic Aircraft, which flew its E1000 on December 19th, 2015, beating its self-imposed deadline by more than a week. While Epic is simply trying to get its slick turboprop through the certification in a timely manner so it can start delivering airplanes to customers, the history of late-year first flights is fascinating.
Perhaps the greatest story on the subject is that Learjet’s Lear Fan flew for the first time with a wink and nod from British regulators, on December 32nd of 1981, in order to make a funding deadline. No such slight of hand was necessary for the folks at Epic.
Customers are understandably excited about the progress. The single-engine turboprop E1000 is an impressive airplane, and the conforming prototype is sure to push the limits of what the proof-of-concept plane could pull off. Powered by a 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney PT-6 turboprop, the sleek carbon- fiber bird is projected to hit a max cruise of 325 knots with a ceiling of 34,000 feet—high for a turboprop—and with a max range of a whopping 1,650 nm. At a price tag of $2.95 million, nicely equipped, says Epic, the E1000 will add a strong new player in a busy market segment, one that might add some competition to an already competitive field.
That first conforming prototype will be joined this year by additional Epic E1000s, all of which will be used for the FAA certification effort, which Epic hopes to achieve later this year. We’ll keep you posted.
Tecnam Gets FAA Certification For P2010
It took an innovative Italian company just a few years to pull off what no one else had been able to do for decades. In an announcement made December 15, 2015, Tecnam has earned FAA certification for its head-turning P2010 high-wing four-seater under Part 23 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. According to Tecnam, the new model is the first new high-wing four-seater to earn FAA approval in many decades, the next most recent being the Cessna Cardinal in the late 1960s. Despite its sleek appearance, the P2010 boasts impressive performance characteristics, including a cruise speed of 140 knots on 1 1gph, a range of around 750 nm and a useful load of 992 pounds.
Tecnam has already been delivering P2010s to European customers and plans on expanding its 25,000-sq. ft. reassembly facility in Sebring, Fla., to accommodate a spate of orders its counting on from U.S. customers. In the near term, it’s possible to divert production slots from the production line in Italy to U.S. customers, a Tecnam spokesman told Plane & Pilot.
Mooney Makes Surprise First Flight Of M10T
Mooney made the first flight of its cool-looking little two-seat M10T trainer from Chino, Calif., this past December, an event announced on its Facebook page. The all-composite design still looks like a Mooney, thanks to its distinctive forward-canted tail design, but it’s really an all-new airplane. Importantly, it features a diesel engine, the Continental CD-155 that will make it a natural in the training market, especially internationally, for the ready availability of Jet-A fuel and for the engine’s famously efficient burn rate. The concept was announced just a year ago. Certification is expected in 2017. A companion model, a retractable gear version with a hoped-for 170-knot cruise speed and a 1,000 nautical mile range is also in the works.
The initial flight was performed on Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015, by test pilot Len Fox. The flight lasted approximately 15 minutes, and in a press release, CEO of Mooney International Jerry Chen stated: “The flight was a tremendous milestone for the M10 program. Our team of engineers have been working very hard to reach this day, and we are excited to have achieved this milestone in 2015, just one year after announcing the M10 program at Zhuhai Airshow in China.”
HondaJet Earns FAA Approval: Production Begins
Honda Aircraft Company has earned FAA certification for its HondaJet, news it announced late last year. The HondaJet is a light jet, what some might call it an “entry-level” jet, but the fact is that this entry-level jet boasts very substantial performance, a cruise speed of 420 knots and a range of 1,180 nm with reserves. The speed figure is particularly impressive, giving the HondaJet a 15-30 knot advantage over its direct competitors.
It’s a somewhat crowded market niche, with some excellent aircraft offering strong competition to the HondaJet. The Embraer Phenom 100 boasts excellent all- around performance, comparably great quality-of-life features and an airline level of product support. The Cessna Citation M2 is a faster, longer-legged version of the time-tested CitationJet. A 400-plus-knot performer with the latest avionics package and a gorgeous cabin to boot, the M2 has legendary Cessna aftermarket support to brag about.
Buyers can expect to spend north of $4 million for any of the three.
It’s a trio of light jets that underscores the kind of impressive work that’s being done worldwide at the light side of the turbofan market. Garmin panels are in all three models, as well, which points out just how strong a move into that segment of the world the Olathe, Kansas,-based avionics maker has made and continues to make.
According to Honeywell in its turbine market forecast delivered at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas in November, the future looks sunny again for light jets, after a period of uncertainty since the downturn of 2008.
In terms of design, the HondaJet’s biggest differentiator is the over-the-wing engine configuration. Honda Aircraft claims the design gives the jet certain advantages, including a reduction in noise, and there seems to be some truth to those claims. Look for our flight report in a coming issue.
Right now, Honda is busy cranking out airplanes to fill an order book that seemed to keep growing as certification loomed. With certification in hand, it’s time for the company to start delivering airplanes, lots of them, and continuing to build its case for why it’s the right light jet for the owner pilot on the move.
Why One Woman Flew 13,000 Miles In An Open-Cockpit Biplane
Tracey Curtis-Taylor proved basic stick-and-rudder skills could still get you across the world after completing a 13,000-mile homage flight for female aviation pioneer Amy Johnson. Tracey’s flight in a 1942 Boeing Stearman took her across 23 countries and 13,000 miles from England to Australia, an air journey first completed by Amy Johnson in 1930. Curtis-Taylor says that, “Being able to fly an airplane like this at low level halfway ’round the world, you know—in some of the most epic terrain on the planet, has been beyond anything. My flight is very much a tribute to her. So it is, yeah, celebrating what the pioneers achieved and what women achieve now in aviation, as well.”
The Boeing Stearman Curtis-Taylor flew will be shipped to the United States to complete a world flight later in 2016.
They’re Doing What To The Lancair IV?
By Isabel Goyer
What comes to mind when you think of the Lancair IV-P? Speed, yes. Safety? Not so much. But Redmond, Ore., company RDD Enterprises is out to change that perception with the introduction of an extensively remanufactured Lancair IV-P that it calls the LX7. RDD will start with a Lancair IV-P airframe and transform it into a brand-new model, one designed to fly just as fast, but with far more docile flight characteristics.
The process will take an existing Lancair IV-P kitplane, add a new, one-piece dual-spar carbon-fiber wing with a laminar-flow airfoil and double-slotted flaps for what RDD claims will be much improved stall and slow speed handling characteristics. There’s also a new tail section.The company will also add a whole-airplane recovery parachute system from BRS and an all-new flat-panel avionics system with integrated autopilot and dual displays (though they are not sharing the identity of their partner on that program yet).
The LX7, which all-up is slated to cost around the same as a new Cirrus SR22 G5 or Cessna TTx, will give the airplane much of the appeal of an FAA certificated high-performance single but with greater speed than you can find in a Part 23 model.
It’s a cool project. When I first flew the Lancair IV back in the early 1990s, I was amazed by the high- tech kit plane’s remarkable performance and greatly concerned about its terrible slow-speed flying characteristics. The addition of a pressurized version, the Lancair IV-P, in the mid-90s, did little to alleviate those concerns. The addition of a chute will give added peace of mind to potential owners who are looking for the speed of a Lancair IV-P without the greatly added risk of high stall speeds, poor aerodynamic stability and unforgiving stall characteristics.
RDD isn’t associated with Lancair, but knows the models well. Several key players at RDD are former Lancair employees, and the company has been doing work on Lancair kit planes for some time. The target stall speed is 63 knots, right around the figure required by the FAA for single engine Part 23 certificated airplanes that get a couple of knots of credit for crashworthy features. This with a cruise speed of around 250 knots at altitude in pressurized comfort and with a range of around 2,000 nm (seriously), and you’ve got a package that will attract a lot of attention.
RDD plans to fly the first LX7 in the first part of 2016. It plans to announce additional details, including its avionics and aerodynamics design partners at that time, as well.