The Single-Engine Twin-Boom Pusher

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While the big-name airplanes in Aeroshell Square grabbed a lot of attention in Oshkosh last week -- Cessna's proposed LSA, Eclipse's newly certified VLJ (appearing in DayJet livery by the end of the week), and the soon-to-be-marketed HondaJet, to name a few -- plenty of interesting projects were on display around the fringes of the field as well. One of those was the prototype of the Ion aircraft, a sharp-looking little composite pusher with a twin tail-boom and tandem seating. "There was a lot of interest, it went even a little too well, we were kind of scared by all the attention," Vulcan Aircraft's Steve Schultz told AVweb after the show. "We haven't even flown it yet." And why not? The design seems pretty much ready to go. But it needs a canopy. "This canopy has been a problem for over a year now," Schultz said. The trouble is that the canopy is "really big," Schultz said, and that size makes fabrication difficult ... and expensive. An effort to find an economical solution didn't pan out, and ate up a lot of time. But a new vendor has been found who the company hopes will be able to make it work. "Once that's done, we're just about ready to fly," Shultz said, so he hopes to be in the air by the end of this year. So far the aircraft has flown only in computer simulation, but that seems to be enough for prospective owners to want to start writing checks, he said. Given the history of Vulcan Aviation -- it was formed by customers of an earlier company that went bottom-up, taking their deposits along -- he intends to be very conservative about both the flight-test program and the taking of deposits. The plan is to test the prototype next year, then work closely with a couple of homebuilders to develop a kit, which might go on the market in 2008. Next would be LSA approval and eventually a turnkey product, Schultz said.