Lancair Evolution First Flight

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Lancair’s latest kit-built aircraft, the Evolution, had its first flight at company headquarters in Redmond, Ore., last Friday. The all-composite speedster will weigh just 2,300 pounds empty but has a 750-hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6 engine up front that will give it a maximum cruise of 330 knots. First flight, with Len Fox at the controls, appeared uneventful and lasted about 40 minutes. According to the Lancair Web site the company is planning to have the aircraft at Sun ‘n Fun, which begins in just two weeks. Actually getting the aircraft to market may prove to be more difficult, though.

As we reported in last Friday’s AVweb Audio, Lancair CEO Joe Bartels is concerned that the FAA’s reassessment of the rules that have governed kit-built aircraft for more than 20 years will threaten technologically advanced aircraft such as the Evolution. The FAA is suggesting that home builders should do more of the parts fabrication themselves, rather than just straight assembly of pre-made parts, but Bartels says the specialized equipment and materials that go into the parts of a composite airframe are far beyond the scope and abilities of someone working in a home shop. While it decides its next move, the FAA has put a moratorium on inspections of new kits and their conformity to the existing regulations and the Evolution is caught in that moratorium. However, Oregon politicians are going to bat for the company and calling on the FAA to resume the so-called “courtesy inspections,” which give potential buyers comfort that once the plane is built the agency will sign off on its airworthiness, assuming it was built according to manufacturers’ directions.

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