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Lancair IV Flight

After flying myself today, I got a ride in a kit built Lancair IV - a friend recently bought one from the original builder and decided I needed to check it out. Since a lot of pilots here are 'going places' pilots I thought I'd make a post. Bear in mind that its the impression of a relatively low time pilot having an engineering background but no experience in this kind of performance aircraft.

The plane is extremely well built, 100 pt show plane quality but with a 20th century style (non-flat panel) instrument setup. Engine is a non-certified (modified) TSIO-55O Continental of 350 HP.

Getting in is a challenge, different in that regard than I expected. It's a 2+2, back seats for small people only, and front seats that are really fine once you're in, but it takes some gymnastics to get seated. It's obviously a setup in which they took the tallest design spec pilots and shrink wrapped the cockpit around them.

Wing loading is something like 35 lb/sq ft, very high. Looking out sideways during taxi the wing looks much too small :-) Take off flaps are apparently absolutely mandatory. Acceleration was strong and after rotation the airplane climbs at a relatively shallow angle (maybe 1100 fpm at some high airspeed that I forget) while it gathers its skirts. Take-off flaps stay in for a long time while it accelerates more and more like a freight train. By mid-field downwind its going 170 kts and at that point it finally reaches its happy place, with climb rate remaining constant as speed increases more and more. At 180 kts its holding 1200 fpm climb with power pulled back a little... and it apparently keeps that up almost indefinitely as you climb up as high as you like. Take off (full power) fuel flow was something outrageous like 34 gph.

At 7500 ft (this was only a 30 minute flight) it indicated 220 kts level at some reasonable cruise power setting that I forget. It's very quiet, with an inflatable door seal and other refinements. I flew it a bit - all controls were quite firm, pitch was firmest with ailerons lighter and pretty responsive. It really gobbles up real estate in maneuvering flight. Doing something like S-turns for spacing on final doesn't come across as a practical concept... but pattern work is not what it's for.

Slowing and descent was clearly critical and speed brake use seemed to be near mandatory. The owner said that slowing and descending simultaneously doesn't work well. In general terms he descends, then slows. His landing was perfect regardless and we were stopped in 1500 ft of runway. Significant braking is mandatory apparently, even for a longer roll-out, or you'd go off the end of any moderate runway length.

It was very interesting to experience and fly a little - seems to me it's like a jet in its character, and would sure get you around fast if that's what you needed. The only thing similar I've been in, in terms of needing speed to perform, was a Marchetti SF260 but that was relatively mild.

My impressions FWIW.

Nice writeup.

Is this the one which was turboprop converted also? I have a photo of it above my desk at work. Always fancied a "compact" turboprop

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Yes, some were built with a Walter turboprop. I imagine the performance would be very high!

The plane reminded me of something like the last versions of the Porsche 928 car. Rumbling engine, not a dainty bone in its body, and focused on covering ground high and fast over anything else.

This Lancair IV-P appeared at my base the other day

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Thanks Silvaire, a very interesting report. I read a review in a magazine years ago which didn’t list any negatives, so good to have something balanced.

Just been reading Mike Busch’s Airplane Ownership (2019) which says “you can get insurance on pretty much anything but a Lancair IV (which seems to be uninsurable at any price)”. Looking into it LOBO says the same too, but does recommend a broker, and a post on Pilots of America has a good analysis of the reasons.

EGHO-LFQF-KCLW, United Kingdom

The former owner of my plane built himself a IV-P (6000 hours!) and I was lucky enough to get a ride in it once and get to handle it. It’s the only piston plane I’ve ever been in (well, except maybe the P51) where you have to actively think about the 250 knot speed limit. It was a delight to fly, no vices at all at least in cruise. The takeoff and landing seemed normal enough to me, he operated out of KPAO with its 2400 feet of runway.

I wouldn’t even begin to compare the Marchetti – I have a handful of flights in that too. That’s a great plane, and one of the few aerobatic tourers, but the performance doesn’t even begin to compare to the IV-P.

LFMD, France

It’s amazing to realize that I took the flight mentioned in 2013…. Almost nine years ago. Time really does fly. Since then the owners of that Lancair IV have extended the wingtips with a modification of their own design which also adds extra fuel capacity, and installed a completely new 21st century instrument panel.

I saw it taxiing out of Sunday, so although they rarely mention the plane nowadays (they’ve done half a dozen other projects after this one, like the Reno racer Glasair) they’re obviously still using the Lancair as designed.

Had a flight, a couple of years ago, in a Lancair Legacy, and was similarly impressed. The Legacy, sporting the same engine, is lighter, and with modern aerodynamics the performance probably benefits.
Cruising 230kts, pretty nice flight controls (much improved on the smaller Lancairs I had a go at), an awesome machine really. I remember “attacking” an innocent looking Arrow (I know, no speed demon) and passing it like it was standing still I was even allowed to land, which was, but for the speed itself, a non-event. And yes, braking was required

We have 2 on my field, and they seem ok on our 685m (longest available) runway… we had a 3rd one, which very unfortunately crashed last spring, away from base, whilst circling at low altitude, report pending.

The downside of that kind of ship, besides the budget requirement, is the need for a hard surface of suitable length. And a certain level of professionalism to operate safely.

ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

If it wasn’t for the permits, and it could fly IFR, I would have got one of these by now. Every time I have a 30-40kt headwind I am thinking about this

Like the other kit Lancairs, the owners report dodgy low speed handling, with a basically fictional Vs. So it is a hard runway machine, ~700m plus.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The Legacy was the basis for the Columbia 350 / 400. From what I heard from people who have flown both they are very similar in handling and stall and quite benign (especially compared to the Lancair IV, which has a completely different wing

Biggin Hill
15 Posts
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