• Gary Weeks' Lancair Legacy 500. (John Absolon)
    Gary Weeks' Lancair Legacy 500. (John Absolon)

The Lancair Legacy 550 is the latest incarnation of the long line of high-performance, single-engine home-built aircraft from the design stable of Lance Neibauer. Neibauer no longer owns Lancair International, but the company still designs single engine high performance home-built aircraft that epitomize sleek design.

The Legacy 550 in question here was built and is now owned and operated by Gary Weeks. Gary’s attention to detail in this project is amazing. His past experience as an electrical engineering student shows out not only in the detail and finish of the electrical and avionic systems in the aircraft but to the overall approach to the construction and now the operation of the aircraft.  

The Legacy 550 is configured with a high-performance aerofoil section that resembles those used on modern airliners, producing low drag while flying at high speed.  It has a pronounced concave curve towards the trailing edge.

The flaps are hinged from low-hung hinge points, enabling the flaps to move aft as they lower thereby increasing wing area and opening a slot over the leading edge of the flap, increasing lift.

This particular Legacy 550 is fitted with the standard Continental IO-550 engine, but Gary chose a model that has been worked over by Performance Engines with special pistons and porting to produce upwards of 370 hp at 2800 RPM as per the data plate instead of the standard 310 hp. This extra amount is seldom used as it is conservatively operated up to only 2700 RPM or approximately 340-350 hp.

Being normally aspirated, this extra performance enables cruising at the sort of higher altitudes usually reserved for turbo-charged engines. Gary has comfortably cruised this aircraft back from Perth at FL190 with a TAS of around 225 knots, and in future, reckons he could make Jandakot to Wedderburn NSW with just one refueling stop.

Best angle climb is achieved at 105 KIAS delivering 3-4000 fpm rate of climb. A more leisurely cruise climb can be flown at 160 KIAS, but this still delivers nearly 2000 fpm.

Read the full comprehensive flight test in the iPad version of Australian Flying July-August 2014.

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