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Fri, Jul 30, 2004

Heavy-Breathing: A First Look At Lancair’s Columbia 400 (Part Four)

233 Kts, FL230, 26 Minutes From Brake Release... Wow! Part Four

Time for launch… uh, takeoff. There is a throaty and reassuring nature to the TCM that defies precise description… but it’s a good feeling… and it only gets better as you put the hammer down on that critter. There are 310 ponies up front and ain’t nary a one that’s bashful about it. 

Takeoff goes quick with one notch of flaps... those ponies don’t even play before galloping. I saw the ASI active and swinging through 65 kts in barely enough time to lighten the nosewheel and get off the deck at 75-85 kts, a mere 1000 feet or so down the pavement from where we started. I held the 82 kt. speed for a bit (Vx, by the way) until clearing the end of the runway and settled into 110-120 kts cruise-climb and got rid of the notch of flaps... with only a light pitch positive trim change (accounting for less than two pounds of corrective stick pressure). Initial rates of climb were well in excess of 1500 fpm and we settled into a pretty solid 1100-1200 in the cruise climb mode. Visibility was excellent in the cruise climb mode, and awfully good, as compared to other aircraft, even at Vx. The initial climb to 3500 feet, took less than three minutes from brake release and put us in a position to actually see KSM off in the distance. That’s scooting.

Lessons Learned At KSM

The short ride to KSM went speedily as we were granted a quick right base for an eastern runway and the intercept was a pretty easy affair with a few minutes with spoilers deployed to pop back down to pattern altitude and swing onto the base. I love the spoiler installation on the Lancair… an accessory that I wish other aircraft manufacturers would offer. Not every bird needs them, but there’s often a condition or a flight profile that can benefit from being able to lose a lot of altitude without having to dive for the deck like you were flying a TBM Avenger or something similar. Spoiler operation is incredibly simple, fairly speedy and devoid of aerodynamic upsets. You’ll feel them deploy or retract but there is no trim change and the transition effect is mild and momentary. However; pop those puppies up (there is no speed inhibition with them either, if you’re in the normal ops envelope, you can deploy them at will), and you will see that the drag profile heads for the roof…and the faster you go, the better they work. For the doubting thomases among you, the aircraft is quite controllable even with one spoiler asymmetrically deployed (requiring about 20-30% of corrective roll input to deal with it) and you can actually takeoff with the spoilers out if you want to extend the ground roll a fair amount… they’re not idiot-proof by any means, but they’re pretty close. Highly recommended.

With two notches down and spoilers used for glidepath control, the C400 drills down the final at 90-100 kts as if it were on rails. Crosswind drift is easily countered with light aileron, and the spoilers do wonders for killing speed-creep.

Landing this baby requires little from the brain trust. It's really simple. The normal procedure seems to make it best to ride the downwind at 100-120kts, drop the first notch of flaps at 100 kts opposite the midpoint of the runway, run the revs back to slow it down further (that prop decelerates the bird well when you pull off the power), slow to 90 kts on the base, drop the last notch on short final and carry a little power to keep pitch excited as you round out to a short approach at 80 knots. Hold it off slightly and be not surprised when the bird settles in rather level; but note that whatever you start with, a little more pitch up just prior to touchdown helps a lot and keeps the nosewheel from making a more solid arrival.

But we didn’t do that.

A hasty right base for the runway showed the biggest difference I had found between the 400 and the 300/350s I had flown earlier. The 400’s elevator is a bit more active at low speeds and the stability profile remains nearly as tight as that we experienced at cruise. The extra tail volume obviously was doing its job and the slightly more authoritative effect was welcome. The extra pitch authority was particularly helpful in the flare…as the 300 and 350 lose a little of their oomph in the late flare and require a bit more of a pull in order to keep the nose off as you decelerate. It’s a nice update. I used 110-120 to the base, about 100-110 on the base and decelerated slowly through final to just under 100 kts. Overall controllability remained quite good… with excellent yaw authority (and only slightly lessened pressures), while pitch and roll remained nearly as active as they had been some 50 knots faster… and notable but sedately lessened control forces.

A light flare and light to modest braking got us stopped in less than 1200 feet with the spoilers killing off residual float (it’s harder to make a bad landing with the spoilers covering your backside). Directional control is excellent in the roll-out… with a slight 8-10 knot cross barely noticeable enough to deal with. Interestingly, the C400 still goes where you point in the flare and roll-out with little tendency to weathervane in sympathy to the cross. She’s an animal in the air… but pretty tame on the deck.

Lancair Columbia 400
Engine, Propeller and Airframe Data 
Engine TCM
HP 310 hp
Propeller Hartzell 3 Blade
Length 25.5 ft
Height 9 ft
Wingspan 36 ft
Wing Area 141.2 sq ft
Wing Aspect Ratio 92
Wing Loading 24 lbs/sq ft
Power Loading 11.61 lbs/hp
Maximum Fuel (US Gallons) 98 Usable
Lancair Columbia 400 
Weight Data
Takeoff Weight (Maximum) 3600 lbs 
Ramp Weight (Maximum) 3612 lbs
Empty Weight (Approximate) 2500 lbs 
Useful Load (Approximate) 1100 lbs 
Landing Weight (Maximum) lbs  3420
Baggage Weight (Maximum) 120 lbs 
Lancair Columbia 400
Speed Data
VO Maximum Operating Maneuvering Speed     (3600 lbs gw) 158 KIAS 
VFE Maximum Flap Extended Speed (Full Flaps) 119 KIAS 
VFE1 Maximum Takeoff Flap Extended Speed    (Takeoff Flaps) 129 KIAS
VNO Maximum Structural Cruising Speed 181 KIAS 
VNE Never Exceed Speed              235 KIAS 
VSO Stall Speed in the Landing Configuration    60 KIAS 
VS1 Stall Speed (Takeoff Flaps) 65 KIAS
VSN Stall Speed (No Flaps) 71 KIAS
Lancair Columbia 400
Cruise Data
Maximum Power Speed (FL180)   230 KTAS (265 mph)
Maximum Recommended Cruise Power Speed (FL250) 235 KTAS (270 mph)
Maximum Range (65 %Power,
FL180, 200 KTAS)
908 Nautical Miles*
Maximum Endurance
6.4 Hours*
Lancair Columbia 400
Performance Data
Takeoff Distance (Sea Level – Standard Temp)
Ground Run (No wind at 3600 lbs gw)
1200 ft
Over 50 ft Obstacle (No wind at 3600 lbs gw)    1800 ft
Landing Distance (Sea Level – Standard Temp) Ground Run (No wind at 3400 lbs gw) 1900 ft
Over 50 ft Obstacle (No wind at 3400 lbs gw)    2350 ft
Maximum Rate of Climb  1300 fpm 

*Includes climb, descent and 45 minute reserves 

To Be Continued...
FMI: www.lancair.com/certified


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