Turboprop Lancair Evolution
The trip was mission specific, fly the turboprop version of the Lancair Evolution and provide feedback to my client. The person evaluating purchasing the Lancair owns a single engine piston, light sport airplane and very light jet. Now he is considering filling the gap between the single engine and jet airplane. The mission for the new airplane is haul 2-3 people, up to 1000 miles.
We landed at Redmond airport and were promptly greeted by Doug from the Lancair factory. Doug first walked us around the airplane we were going to be flying later that afternoon and my initial impression was, “this is impressive”. The airframe of the Evolution is sleek, smooth and beautiful. It appears to by flying while sitting in front of the hangar. The airplane was beautifully appointed with the G900X avionics (experimental version of the G1000), it had leather interior and huge windows. Flying would come soon, first we were to take a tour of the factory(s).
The Lancair factory is spread out amongst several buildings around the Redmond airport. The first building we toured was the composite layup building. In a relatively small area, Lancair is able to manufacture all required composite parts, to build two complete airplanes, every month. While we were on the tour, they were building up a baggage door and some other small assemblies. The parts are all built from a prepreg carbon fiber, using incredibly detailed layup blueprints. I was very impressed with the manufacturing of these parts. They have a detailed build up and quality control program, all parts were serialized and traceable throughout the entire process and all of that tracking information goes with every airplane.
From there we moved to the “owner assist” building. This building is where new owners come for two weeks to make a major contribution to the 50.1% build rule on all “owner” built airplanes. Lancair provides a very detailed step by step build manual and every part you need in a beautifully organized matter. You are provided trays of screws and rivets, nuts and bolts, all labeled with the procedure and page the procedure is found on. In addition to the manual and parts, you are provided with two full time employees that have done this dance before. When your airplane leaves Lancair, generally to move to an owner assist builder, it is on its wheels, motor installed and the wings are complete. Quite impressive for two weeks of work.
From the owner assist building we went to the avionics shop. I now believe half of the weight of the aircraft is the avionics wiring. We met several people creating the wiring harness required to run all of the state of the art avionics. Not only were they creating the “standard” G900X harness, they were creating a completely custom wiring harness for a customer that had very specific needs. Lancair powers up and tests every aspect of the wiring before you get it, so when you get the panel and wiring harness, it is all plug and play.
Flying The Turboprop Lancair Evolution
My first experience flying the Lancair Evolution wasn’t flying at all, I was in the back seat. There were three of us that wanted to demo the Evolution so we played Roe Sham Bo and I lost. I would spend the first two demo’s in the backseat. This turned out to work in my favor though because I got to learn from the first two pilots mistakes. From the backseat the side visibility was pretty good and the seats were semi-comfortable. I wouldn’t want to be back there for a long flight, I was in the back with another full size adult and there wasn’t much room to move. You don’t buy a Porsche Turbo for the backseat comfort and soon enough it was my time in the front left seat.
The startup procedure was simple. Batteries on, fuel pump on, ignitors on, starter engage, 13% N1 Condition lever forward, 52% N1 starter release, generator on. It all happens in less than a minute and you are ready to go. Using differential braking to steer takes a bit of getting used to and using the Beta propeller to slow down is unfamiliar, but it responds as expected and we are soon holding short of the departing runway. Rolling out onto the runway I smoothly bring the power up to 1200 pounds of torque (Power for turboprop) and add a hefty helping of right rudder and we are quickly accelerating down the runway. With four people onboard and half a tank of fuel the airplane flew itself off at 75 knots, I didn’t even pull back. Once airborne I smoothly pushed the torque up near it’s limit of 2000 lbs and quickly accelerated to 180 knots while climbing at almost 2000 feet per minute. I leveled off at 6500 feet and accelerated to 220 knots. After slowing down I initiated a 45 degree steep turn to the left, added a pinch of trim and let go of the controls. The Lancair performed a perfect steep turn with no other inputs from me. After a quick turn around Monkey Face Climbing rock, we called Redmond tower for a downwind entry to runway 4. I was high and fast on downwind, which was easily fixed by dropping the landing gear and adding the 50 degrees of landing flaps a little early. Over the runway numbers I was at 85 knots and I floated over 1000 feet down the runway before touching down. Adding beta and not brakes the airplane slowed to a brisk walk in about 2000 more feet, gentle application of the brakes and I cleared the runway in 3500 feet. I heard at the factory the unofficial record is landing in under 1000 feet, I’ll have to practice and come back.
All in all I was quite impressed with the entire Lancair factory and process. They track and record everything right down to every wiring diagram going home with the airplane. There are many builder assist programs that can help you build your airplane for completion in 8-12 months. I know you can’t get any closer to a factory built airplane and still call it homebuilt, Lancair has worked diligently interpreting and manipulating the 50.1% rule for the safety and reliability of thier kits.
If you are in the market for a very fast, sexy and homebuilt turboprop airplane, I couldn’t imagine a better fit. I enjoyed every minute I was flying the turboprop Lancair Evolution and felt safe after seeing the details of the build process. Doug was our great host for the day and he really made us feel at home in the factory and in the airplane. If my math is correct it is going to cost you between 1.2 and 1.5 Million depending on your build and option choices. It isn’t a cheap airplane but the build quality appears on par with factory built airplanes of twice the price. If you don’t have the patience or time to build your own, there are usually a couple available on the market for close to what it costs to build one. Find a trusted builder and go get yourself a turboprop Lancair Evolution today.
If you are ever in central Oregon, I would strongly suggest going to see the Lancair factory for yourself and make sure to sign up for a demonstration flight.