It’s not often that a grounded airplane design returns to the skies, but such will be the case for a Windecker Eagle currently in restoration. The airplane was designed in the 1960s. It was the first composite airplane to achieve certification and one of the first, if not the first, airplanes certified under Part 23 rules. As an early adopter of composite materials, the Eagle outran the Beechcraft Bonanza, Cessna 210 and Bellanca Viking in its day.
The restoration was commissioned by Chinese entrepreneur Wei Hang. Two airplanes were brought in for the project, both of which had been grounded for decades. “We’ve replaced most everything from the firewall forward and refurbished to ‘better than new’ the landing gear, flight controls and mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and fuel systems,” said Don Atchinson, who heads up the restoration team. “The windows, windshield and interior will be completely new and there will be a number of upgrades in the panel when it flies again.”
The project team recently upgraded the engine from a Continental IO-520 to an IO-550, a modification that will require the cowl to be redesigned. Aeronautical engineer John Roncz was recruited for this undertaking. Roncz has been involved in the redesign or development of 53 different aircraft, nearly half of which were a part of Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites. By use of computer-based technologies, Roncz hopes to refine the cowl to produce even greater efficiency and more speed.
Should the restoration team be successful in returning the Eagle to the skies, it will be the only flying example today.
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