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Fri, Sep 19, 2003

Lancair Owners Celebrate Fun, Beauty, Speed

By Norm Cohen,

Beautiful weather, with a hint of high desert autumn chill, greeted the Lancair owners, pilots, and depositors, who headed to S07, the Bend (OR) Airport and the home of Lancair Certified Aircraft. We met for lunch in the large hangar just off the factory's main entrance for the factory. (The arrival at the factory was particularly exciting for Dick Mitchell and Tim Allen who got to see their airplanes for the very first time! Tim will be taking delivery and starting his flight training in his new 300 on the Monday following the fly-in. Tim's plane is probably the last 300 to come off the factory line.)

Other attractions provided by Lancair included a panel mockup featuring the Avidyne Entegra with the dual Garmin panel and the New Spirit of Saint Louis (the favorite of my wife and daughter). Other than the paint job and fuel filler ports at the wingtip, the Spirit looked like the other 300s gracing the flight line. This was my first look at the Spirit and I still find it impressive that Erik made that long flight seem so easy.

Bing Lantis, President of Lancair Certified, gave us a factory update.

Lancair has more than ten 350s virtually completed, awaiting certification of the Avidyne/STEC system. FAA certification, although complicated by dealing with three different FAA regions, is anticipated to be completed in the next few weeks. Once certification is obtained, the Avidyne units will be installed and Lancair will be delivering about two airplanes every three days through November. Once Lancair catches up with the backlog of 350s awaiting delivery, they will resume producing aircraft at about 1 airplane every three days. Despite the delay in deliveries of the 350, which was even a bit longer than anticipated, Lancair is on firm financial footing, according to Bing. "It's just a bump in the road!"

Next, Bing filled us in on the status of the 400. The crash of the conforming prototype, although a set-back, had the silver lining that no one was hurt and that the problem had nothing to do with the design of the 400. The new rudder and elevator as well as rudder limiter settings will continue to be refined to compensate for the gross weight increase and different altitude and speed profile. Lancair is converting N143LC, the original 400 prototype, to make it conforming to the latest design. This should be flyable sometime in October. Also, another 400 conforming prototype is coming through the line and will be flying in November. Certification is expected sometime in the first quarter with deliveries to start around the beginning of April.

Also regarding deliveries, Lancair will be pushing 350s out the door as fast as they can until the 400 starts shipping. At that time, Lancair will only be producing 400s until delivery numbers start matching again, around position 208. Thenceforth, production will follow delivery numbers. The current production plan is to ramp up from one delivery every three days at the beginning of 2004 to one delivery a day by the end of 2004.

Other news of note about the 400 is that FADEC is out for the time being but deice and built-in oxygen will almost certainly be available, assuming FAA certification. Getting FADEC to work with the performance that Lancair wanted is not possible given the short timeframe until production will start; however, beginning with the 2005 model year, FADEC is one of the changes being considered. Lancair is focusing on getting the 400 certified and does not want to delay that due to the additional hoops involved with FADEC implementation.

Bing noted that expenses have been slightly less than anticipated since restarting production, and manufacturing efficiency is better than expected.

Finally, Bing noted that without the faith and confidence that the depositor and owner community demonstrated during the shut-down last year, Lancair probably would not be in business today. This commitment to the Lancair product was one of the principle factors that convinced the Malaysian investors to pony up additional funds. Everyone at Lancair expresses their appreciation to the Lancair owners and depositors for staying away from litigation during those troubling times, allowing management to complete the deal that will allow us to receive our beautiful Columbias.

Air Conditioning

Blaine Streeter of Seamech introduced us to the air conditioning system, soon to be available to 350 and 400 owners. Powered by an engine-driven compressor, only drawing about 14 amps of power, and weighing about 50 pounds installed, the new air conditioner will have an electronic climate control system. The pilot sets the desired temperature on the control panel, and the system does what it needs to do to maintain that setting, using the standard engine heat exchanger or the cooling system as necessary.


Lancair arranged for Dr. Bob Rutherford, President and founder of Northcoast Technologies, to provide an update on the de-icing unit being certified for the Columbia line. Dr. Rutherford presented some information about airframe icing in general and then proceeded to describe the Thermawing(tm) system. To achieve thermal de-icing without run-back of liquid moisture that can refreeze further back on the wing requires very rapid onset and offset of the heating element. Conventional wire based techniques, such as seen on propeller deicers, are too slow, resulting in run-back and ice ridging. A novel approach needed to be developed. Northcoast's technology uses a carbon foil which is bonded to a heat conducting, poly-vinyl fluoride outer layer. The temperature rise is very rapid when electricity is applied, also the tape cools quickly as well.

One last "feature" of note with the Northcoast system is that insects, like water, do not adhere to the deicing strip. This characteristic will make cleaning the wings that much easier!

Built-in Oxygen

The last vendor who presented was Scott Philbin of Precise Flight, located in Bend (OR). Precise Flight, which also manufacturers the speed brakes found on the Columbia, purchased Nelson Oxygen a number of years ago. They currently provide the semi-portable system available on the 300. For the 400, flying in the flight levels, an integrated oxygen system is quite desirable. Precise Flight's control system and emergency shut off system will not require cabling from the cabin area. When at or above a defined pressure altitude, an annunciator light illuminates until the oxygen system is activated. The oxygen controller also flashes in sequence until the system is armed.

A number of flowmeters are available; however, the most impressive one was an oxygen conserving flowmeter that is powered by the oxygen supply itself. Initiation of a breath leads to delivery of a bolus of oxygen early in the respiratory cycle. This allows more oxygen to be delivered to the parts of the lung involved in gas exchange. Unlike the EDS system, these flow-meters do not require electrical power for use. The fit and finish of the system was impressive as was Precise Flight's attention to detail. The built-in oxygen system should be effective, convenient, and very user friendly.

Training Update

Sam "ObiWan" Houston and Scott "Luke" Marti provided an update on the training program for new pilots as well as an overview of the Avidyne Entegra as implemented on the Columbia. Scott, a CFII, recently joined Sam in the training department. Beginning with deliveries of the 350, the training duration will increase to 3 days due to the additional time needed for proper training in the avionics systems. Also, Sam has prepared a syllabus for recurrent training, including a lesson plan, that has been distributed to the Sales and Service Centers. If you already have your Columbia and your insurance carrier requires recurrent training, contact your nearest SSC or Sam to obtain a copy.

Scott presented a number of slides highlighting the features of the Entegra system, showing the primary flight display, the navigation display, integrated engine monitoring, and weather and traffic information. For those taking delivery of these systems, the aircraft will serve as the simulator, powered by an auxiliary power unit.

Factory Tour

For first-time visitors to Lancair, the factory tour was special. For me, the highlight was seeing the very long line of virtually completed Columbias. The factory is the busiest I've ever seen it. (If the FAA fails to certify the 350 with the Avidyne soon, Lancair will run out of room.)

We learned a few new tidbits of information during the tour. The Malaysian factory is undergoing review by the FAA now. Once approved, many of the larger parts will start to be fabricated in Malaysia, providing both more room and more rapid production. Lancair is also investigating another potential vendor for composite fabrication as well, so that Lancair will have redundancy in vendors. Some new color schemes are being developed; however, the beautiful pearl finish has been phased out due to difficulties in matching paint when composite repairs are necessary. The manufacturing process continues to be refined to allow higher quality and greater consistency from airplane to airplane.

President Bob Satterwhite announced that the next official gathering for LOPA will be at Sun 'N Fun this coming April. Lancair has traditionally hosted a Crawdad feast at Sun 'N Fun. Mark Cahill announced that Lancair will be having another fly-in at Bend around the same time next year. Given that almost 100 more planes should be in the hands of customers by then, next year's event has the makings of being a "really big shew!"

The first LOPA fly-in was a great success. It was great getting to meet so many other Columbia owners and depositors.



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