While the Evolution benefits from the long history of Lancair, several things differentiate the airplane from its predecessors. It is the first Lancair completely designed using 3-D digital CAD (computer-aided design) software. The main benefit to this is consistency, said Bowen. CAD also enabled the Evolution’s low parts count and ease of assembly, and it helps with rapid prototyping for modifications or additions.
A major contributor to the Evolution’s performance qualities is the wing design. Far from amateur, the design was optimized using Xfoil analysis software and validated through wind tunnel testing. The wing is tapered and uses four different airfoils, resulting in “a balance of desirable flight characteristics tailored specifically for cruise performance, in-flight maneuvers, efficient climb and docile low-speed handling and stall behavior,” said Bowen.
Despite the advanced wing design, one fairly common complaint is that the Evolution’s roll control is heavy. And I agree that the pressure required to control the airplane is not balanced. The pitch control is nice, but when you need to roll the airplane, particularly at high speed, the amount of force required is excessive.
It is a problem Lancair decided to tackle. Bowen says the airfoil of the ailerons has been redesigned, and the trim tab has been moved to shift the center of pressure closer to the hinge line. “This will reduce the stick forces but retain the responsiveness at slow speed and flatten the ‘stick force per knot’ curve,” he said. While I cannot confirm this claim, the new ailerons are flying and should be available to new and existing customers this summer.
An electrical hot prop provides standard ice protection. An optional system is available for the wing and horizontal stabilizer through Kelley Aerospace’s thermal anti-ice/deice system, which also includes a glycol spray for the windshield. In addition, Lancair is developing a pneumatic deice system — boots — as a second option. To minimize the performance penalty, the boot will be fitted into a modified leading edge of the wing, as opposed to the existing leading edge, so it will not be a retrofittable option.
Underneath the wing, trailing link landing gear and a nitrogen oil strut absorb the energy during landings, making for silky-smooth transitions from air to ground.
In addition to exceptional strength and durability, one major benefit of carbon fiber construction, said Bowen, is the ease of creating an airtight pressure vessel. The composite parts, which are produced to very close tolerances, are bonded together with Hysol, a high-tech epoxy that forms a chemical and mechanical bond between each part, minimizing the possibility for leaks. Doors, doorsills, floors and closeouts are sealed with gaskets and inflatable door seals. The automatic pressurization system provides 6.5 psi of cabin pressure differential and enables an 8,000-foot cabin at 28,000 feet.
A 750 shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135A turboprop engine powers the Evolution, an engine with a very reliable track record. The Evo has also flown with a 350 hp Lycoming TEO-540; however, only the turboprop option is offered at this time.
Sidesticks on each side of the cockpit control the Evolution. This setup is, in my opinion, optimal because it is comfortable and it makes room for an electronic flight bag, kneeboard or whatever else you would like to have on your lap as you cruise along.
The Evolution’s EFC900X avionics suite includes Garmin’s G900X with synthetic vision and an integrated autopilot, a Radiant touch-screen environmental, pressurization and lighting control screen — and L3’s Trilogy electronic standby instrument.
Building the Evolution
So, with all these good qualities, is there a drawback? Well, there is one little snag. You have to build it yourself. The Lancair kit includes a highly organized, two-week, supervised build program at the factory in Redmond. At the completion of it, the carbon fiber fuselage is finished and sitting on the main gear. It may sound as if the airplane is almost ready to go, but there is still much work to be done.
Several commercial build shops can help complete the airplane. You may ask yourself how the owner/builder is able to meet the 51 percent rule while using commercial help, but the whole process is documented and broken down into tasks (not time) to satisfy the rule. If the owner can commit to one week per month after the initial two-week process, the airplane can be completed in six months. Most airplanes have taken about eight months to complete, however, said Lancair’s national marketing and sales director, Doug Meyer.