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Sun, Apr 09, 2006

Ravin 500 Causes Double Takes At Lakeland 2006

A Composite Comanche?

by ANN Associate Editor Rob Finfrock

After covering a major airshow for a week, one tends to adopt a somewhat blase tone looking upon the aircraft that, just four days ago, seemed so new and exciting. A wide assortment of new Cirri? Check. Sharp looking Maule on floats? Check. New turbonormalized Mooney? Check (although wow, gotta love that paint job).

A fiberglass Comanche? Check -- uh, wait a minute...

Upon further examination, the bare airframe underneath the Ravin Aircraft USA tent at Booth MD4-C at Sun 'N Fun 2006 reveals several differences from a Piper-built PA-24. For one thing, the main pilot entry door is on the left, not the right as on factory-built Pipers. The wing is also a different design... and mostly notably, all surfaces are devoid of rivets and are MUCH smoother than any bird done up in metal.

But wow, does the thing ever look like a Comanche from about 20 paces, especially around the window area. So, what gives?

Alan Woodridge is President and CEO of Ravin Aircraft USA, the new US distributorship for the homebuilt Ravin 500. He filled me in on the specifics of the airframe before me, the tenth in the world and the first in the US.

The aircraft, created by South African designer and Comanche aficionado Jan Troskie (according to the company's website, he owned a 260C Shark Nose for eight years), is actually about 7 percent smaller in every dimension than a comparable Comanche 260, but features almost exactly the same cabin room. It also sits ever-so-slightly lower on its retractable landing gear.

Did I mention that the plane really looks like a Comanche?

A Lycoming IO-540 powers the plane, making -- you guessed it -- 260 horsepower. With 160-gallon fuel capacity and an expected cruising speed in the 190-knot range, the Ravin 500 will travel nearly 2000 nm (with reserves) burning 14.1 gph, according to the company.

In addition to the inherent smoothness of the composite structure, aerodynamic efficiency is aided further by antennae integrated into the plane's structure, instead of protruding from it.

Woodridge is currently building his plane, which he will then use as his demonstrator for potential customers.

Ravin Aircraft USA will also offer a factory builder-assist program up to 500 hours for new owners, according to Woodridge.

FMI: www.ravinaircraftusa.com

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