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Lancair 320 Flight
Impression by Stewart Wood

One of the (few) perks of doing articles for this website is that just occasionally, you get to have some fun - as for instance when Dieter Bock invites you to "hop in for a quick burn!" at Jack Taylor Airfield, Krugersdorp.

Dieter built his Lancair as a first-time homebuilt project - ambitious that! - over about 4 years at his plastics factory near the Krugersdorp Airport. Having flown for some years, the company-owned Cessna 172 he looked around for something with a bit more pizzazz and found it in the Lancair 320 kit - however as he says, the amount of work involved in building the aircraft was simply beyond his wildest dreams and many a long night was spent toiling in the factory on the Lancair.

After all this however, the effort has finally rewarded him with a truly spectacular and speedy mount, which turns heads wherever it appears!

Back to our flight - on being about to clamber into the Lancair cockpit, my first surprise, amongst many yet to come, was Dieter's request (command?) to take off the footwear - no shoes allowed to sully the glacial surface of the Lancair's wing, or the carpets inside, for that matter. Having chucked the Hush Puppies in the back, we clambered in and reclined on the astronaut's couch (sorry pilot's seat, but it is very laid back).

Once comfortably installed, Dieter fired up the 0-320, 160 hp Lycoming, which runs very smoothly and is quite well insulated from the occupants in terms of noise. Taxi was a simple affair, as it should be with the little wheel on the front (I drive a similar trolley, so I'm not making any snide comments here, as some are wont to do!). The Lancair rides firmly on it's retractable gear, with shock absorption taken care of by rubber doughnuts in compression.

Run-up was interesting, as if you fail to observe a max. of about 2000 rpm, you will find yourself sliding in a cloud of Goodyear rubber-smoke, over the holding point, as the thrust drags the aircraft, brakes locked and tyres screaming towards the nether regions of the airfield.

Lining up and pouring on the coals saw us scurry down the bumpy Krugersdorp runway exhibiting some serious acceleration and after a very short-lived impression of a three-wheeled dragster, the Lancair launched itself at the sky. Sucking up the wheels immediately after lift-off Dieter started a climbing left turn with about 1400 fpm and 120 kts showing and clearly this was already getting to be fun! Entering downwind, a call over the radio told us that a King Air joining just behind us wanted to play and Dieter obliged.

Throttling back to allow the King-Air to catch up (no, seriously!) we found ourselves on final with the King-Air a few hundred metres behind and going hell - for leather to formate in echelon right. The King Air pilot, figuring he was about to come steaming past, asked Dieter to give it some welly and he naturally obliged - by the time we were over the threshold the Lancair was clocking 240 kts with the King Air finally in formation!

Pulling up from the fly-by got the VSI pegged at 2000 fpm, we waved bye-bye to the King Air and went off to play by ourselves.

Flying the Lancair, after all the bar talk everyone has heard for so long about these "hot ships" was a revelation - and a contradiction of most of those tales. It handles like a fast flying machine should, crisp and sensitive with powerful control authority over each axis - pitch, yaw and roll - and does it travel!

At 2400 and 23 in MP we were indicating 184 kts at 6800 amsl ! Cockpit comfort was excellent with sufficient shoulder room in the wide cockpit, plenty of leg room and the previously mentioned reclining seating position. I expect that it would be fine on a long trip, and noise wasn't a problem, or at least no more so than in any light plane!

We wore headsets and for years I have adopted the practice of wearing a decent headset, both for noise suppression and much improved communications inside the aircraft and to the outside world, and this makes a huge difference to comfort on trips - now if the headset manufacturers can just figure a way to stop their products clamping your ears too tightly!

After a 25 minute burn around the local area, I was looking forward to the landing at HMS Krugersdorp, as it is like landing on an aircraft carrier at this field and the Lancair is reputedly a hot thing to land, right! Yes and no - it comes in fast, with 90 kts on approach, but visibility over the nose is fine and the aircraft is perfectly stable - just fast.

We landed just beyond the numbers and were turning off by the clubhouse (less than half the useable runway) without having to stand on the anchors - if it had been necessary to get stopped earlier that wouldn't have been a problem.

As a "time-machine" the Lancair 320 can offer some remarkable travelling legs - Johannesburg to Durban for instance in 1h15m, and this speediness has seen the Lancair place well in the State President's Air Race several times - as Dieter says, it's fun to see the expression on their faces in the Baron, as the Lancair sneaks up and sails past at close quarters during the race!