In dividing tasks between the manufacturer, commercial shop and owner/builder, Lancair focused on assigning jobs to the builder that are least critical to the safety of flight. For example, Lancair builds up the engine for the Evolution to ensure everything is set up properly. “The number-one leading cause of amateur-built accidents is improper engine and fuel setup, usually occurring in the first five hours of the airplane’s life,” said Bowen. Clearly, it is in Lancair’s best interest to prevent that as much as possible, and the purchase price also includes the first flight with a professional test pilot.
At $545,000, the kit itself includes every part required to build the Evolution, not including one minor detail: the engine. The choices for interior design, paint and creature comforts are limitless. When it is all said and done, the Evolution will cost the customer somewhere around $1.3 to $1.4 million, said Meyer.
With the poor accident record of the Lancair IV-P, the company’s previous generation pressurized model, getting affordable insurance was initially a problem for Evolution owners. Lancair solved this by educating underwriters about the airplane. Lancair provides an inspection of each airplane that results in a certificate of insurability. While the certificate doesn’t guarantee insurance, it assures insurance companies that the airplane meets Lancair’s specs.
Flying the Evolution
Having spent much time in another Lancair-developed model, the previously mentioned Cessna Corvalis, I quickly noticed that the cockpit layout is very similar to the Corvalis’, with the sidestick, Garmin G900X (the experimental world’s answer to the G1000) and the optional center column keypad, which operates some functions of the G900X.
The seats, which, by the way, come standard with seat heat, move forward and aft to place you in the optimal position to reach the stick while resting your arm on the armrest in the door frame. Short-legged people need not worry about reaching the rudder pedals, because they also adjust.
The cabin is roomy with plenty of leg and shoulder space for the front and rear occupants. The rear seats have quick-release knobs that allow removal of one or both of the seats should the owner want to carry cargo instead of passengers. But, with a volume of 39 cubic feet and weight limit of 225 pounds, the luggage compartment is likely sufficient in most cases.
Each airplane is different, but with heavy interior enhancements and multiple layers of paint, the empty weight was 2,550 pounds on the demo airplane I flew, providing a payload of 632 pounds. Meyer anticipates a gross weight increase, which would bring the payload up on a loaded airplane to 800 pounds.
Despite the wide beam between the large windshield and the side windows, I found the visibility to be very good all around from the front seat. However, rear passengers need to lean just slightly aft in order to see well through the side window.
I was able to taxi the airplane by simply pushing the rudder pedals and moving the throttle into beta if the airplane picked up too much speed. Very rarely did I touch the brakes.
With Meyer by my side, I did a rolling takeoff, which took up no more than 1,500 feet of runway on the takeoff run. Using a cruise climb of 140 knots, burning 45 gph, we reached our cruise altitude of FL 250 13 minutes after our departure from Redmond (KRDM), having leveled off briefly at FL 230. So Lancair’s claim of 12 minutes to its max altitude of 28,000 feet is realistic.
The 300-knot speed is also attainable. Burning 35 gph of jet-A in cruise, we saw 286 knots TAS. With slight assistance from the wind gods, we made the approximate 630 nm journey to Santa Monica in two hours and 20 minutes, and the 168-gallon fuel tank would have allowed us to continue flying for about another one and a half hours with reserves.
You can also bring the power back to extend the range. Doug Walker, the Northeastern sales representative, flight plans for 285 knots at 28,000 feet, burning 33 gph. In that case, your range would be well over 1,100 nm with IFR reserves.
At no point during the flight did I experience any pressure changes, and at 25,000 feet, the environmental system was showing 7,500 feet. Should you lose pressurization, there is an emergency backup oxygen system with basic masks that we kept plugged in and within reach. The Evolution’s rapid descent profile is impressive. With gear down and full flaps, we achieved a 4,500 fpm descent at 130 knots, trimmed out and hands off.
While roll control is very heavy at faster speeds, it is manageable during slower flight. At 16,500 feet, I tested the slow flight characteristics, which are incredibly stable. The stall, which happened at 62 knots, was just a slight, straight buffet.
From cruise, it is easy to bring the speed down to 160 indicated, put flaps down and fly the airplane at 140 knots, something you can do all day, if you wish to stay ahead of the airplane.
Approaching on final at 85 knots felt stress-free and, perhaps at least partially thanks to the unique landing gear system, my landing at Santa Monica Airport (KSMO) was silky-smooth.
I walked away from the Evolution with a big smile on my face. The performance qualities of the airplane are exceptional, and I like the concept of knowing my airplane as intimately as the builders do. The ability to fully customize the airplane is another benefit that doesn’t exist in the certified world. One interior installation shop is even adding air conditioning in the seats. The remarkable Evolution keeps evolving.