Under the calm, clear blue skies they took off from Camarillo. The hills along the coast of Southern California showcased an array of colors, an expansive patches of yellow, purple, and orange flowers mixed with the bright-green grasses.
The last time when Pia was in Camarillo, she flew in a Lancair Evolution equipped with a big Pratt & Whitney PT6A engine.
This time around she will fly in a sleek, four seat composite bird that had a powerful piston Lycoming 350 HP Integrated Electronic Engine or short for iE2.
This new engine was mounted on the aircraft many years back, but due to problems in cooling the introduction was delayed.
With modifications, this issue has finally been solved and Lancair is ready to launch the aircraft officially in the market.
The Birth of a Sleek Composite Aircraft Family
The story of sleek composite Lancair airplanes family started in the mid 1980s. The aerodynamically efficient, The Lancair 200, was a side-by-side two place flying machine with a 100 HP Continental O-200 engine. The aircraft can cruise at around 200 mph.
Time to Admire this Beautiful Bird:
Most of the aircraft made by Lancair have been piston-powered and it has already delivered more than 2,100 of them. The Evolution was not the first turbine aircraft introduced by the company in 2010, but it was the first aircraft that was designed when the founder of the company was not at the helm.
Lancair has continued with the legacy created by Neibauer and still produces remarkable flying machines in the form of Evolution. At present there are nearly 70 turbine-powered Evolutions in the market.
In case it has been your dream to own a turbine Evolution but the price tag of $1.5 million has been a deterrent, you can purchase the Evolution Piston for a much less price and still enjoy wonderful performance.
In case you want to upgrade after sometime, unless you set your eyes on a jet, you can do so without going through an emotional process. The Lycoming engine can be exchanged with a Pratt & Whitney in the same airframe. The Evolution gives you the option to upgrade from a lower-cost piston-powered aircraft to a higher-performance turbine while keeping the same airplane.
The Evolution of the Evolution
The composite airframe of the Evo Piston is exactly the same as that of Pratt & Whitney-powered Evolution. The difference can be found the portion in front of the fire wall.
While the aircraft still fall in the Experimental category, the manufacturing and design of the Evolution is as good as that of a certified airplane. To optimize accuracy and performance, the aircraft is designed using different computer-software products.
The composite fuselage and wings of the Evolution have been formed in the computer-controlled ovens at the Lancair factory in Redmond, Oregon. This way strict quality check is maintained for each component, and there has been consistency in manufacturing.
RSLG or Rough Service Landing Gear was recently introduced by Lancair which enable to land the aircraft on less then optimal airstrips. With the new landing gear you can fly with a max gross weight of 4,550 pounds. However, you will have to compromise with 10 knots of airspeed in cruise due to wider tires.
BRS Parachute is the latest addition done to the aircraft. It comes as a standard along with the aircraft kit. Customers have the option to de-select this 75 pound safety feature and save $80,000.
UP IN THE AIR With The EVO PISTON
The Evolution has only one cabin boor. It is easy to climb into both the rear and the front seats. Some pilots may find it difficult to access the door latch from the left seat as it is behind the backrest.
Pia found the seats of the Evolution quite comfortable. She test the comfort of the turbine Evolution for nearly three hours during the previous flight. She did not felt any pressure points on her body, however, her feet were at an uncomfortable angel on the rudder pedals.
Pia had this feeling only when she had to access the brakes during taxi, however, there was no such problem during all other phases of flight, starting from takeoff to landing. The electronically controlled Lycoming starts with a push button.
The pilot for this demo flight was Kevin Eldreedge, director of business development, Lancair. Kevin claimed that the things are easy regardless of the conditions outside, including hot starts.
The run-up of the aircraft was equally simple. Push the throttle to 1,800 rpm and the systems will check all the things on its own. A light illuminates when the run-up is in process and switch off when it is complete. You can change the power to cancel the procedure.
As per the recommended settings, Pia put flaps to 25 degrees and rotated at 75 KNOTS. The aircraft was light with only 300 pound of live souls, a half tank of fuel and very little baggage. At nearly 1,000 feet AGL, the flaps will taken up, the nose lowered and the aircraft attained 140 knots cruise climb speed.
Lycoming and Lancair made lot of effort to remove the overheating problem, still, some work need to be done. At nearly 9,000 feet, the nose was lowered and some adjustments were made to remove the yellow TIT indication. This aircraft was the first with Lycoming configuration wherein the problem was still there.
The aircraft at more than 1,000 fpm all through 16,000 feet and rached 17,500 feet in nearly seventeen minutes. During the initial climb, the Evolution burned nearly 33 gph and while maintaining the 36 inches of manifold pressure, it burned 24 gph at 16,500 feet.
After climbing to 17,500 feet, the power was reduced slight to 34 inches. The aircraft burned 22 gph while maintaining 223 knots true airspeed. Kevin claimed that the aircraft can go 10 knots faster at an altitude of 21,000 feet.
The Evolution is a pressurized aircraft so there is no requirement for oxygen masks or cannulas (unless the pressurization does not work). The iE6 burns considerably less amount of fuel than the PT6, the fuel capacity in both the aircraft is the same. With 168 gallons of fuel in both the tanks, the aircraft provides considerable range.
Putting Lancair’s Evolution Endurance to Test
Pia decided to check the range of the aircraft and put in the code for Hilo International Airport (KTIO). At an altitude of 17,500 feet they were flying in the wrong direction in the VFR conditions. They pulled back the back to nearly 30 inches of manifold pressure.
The aircraft was now burning nearly 12 gallons of fuel per hour and giving 206 knots of ground speed. Thanks to the slight tailwind, the true airspeed of the aircraft was 202 knots.
Watch the Flight of Lancair Evolution:
Kevin demostrated the emergency decent abilities of the aircraft. According to Pia, the aircraft slide down nearly 7,500 feet in around 3 minutes time.
Before flying back to Camarillo, Pia decided to maneuver the Evolution for slow flight, steep turns and stalls, and found the handling of the aircraft quite smooth. The aircraft, just like its turbine brother, was quite stable during flight even during stall.
A variety of options are offered by Lancair in the Evolution. The aircraft can be installed with Garmin G900X with an additional $60,000 although only with TruTrak autopilot. There are numerous options available with the Experimental certificate. There is option for anti-ice boots, heated seats and a potty.
The price tag for the Evolution Piston kit without the avionics, engine and paint is $410,000 and the approximate cost for making it ready-to-fly is $895,000. The price tag may scare some people considering it is only an Experimental four-seat piston.
However, The Evolution Piston from Lancair makes for a wonderful choice when you look at the speed and load-carrying capabilities, exceptional range, pressurization, and the option to upgrade and modify to a turbine later on.
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