Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC
Burt Rutan's unconventional, asymmetric piston twin, the Boomerang, is set to enter production. Oregon-based Morrow Aircraft has reached an agreement with Rutan under which the one-off design could be certificated within three years - provided that sufficient financing is secured.
Under the agreement, Rutan's Scaled Composites will build a prototype and two certification-test examples of a production version of the Boomerang. Rutan's Scaled Technology Works would then produce the all-composite airframes for assembly by Morrow at a new plant in Salem, Oregon.
Rutan built the sole Boomerang as his personal aircraft. Designed to eliminate the single-engined handling problems experienced with most piston twins, it has a unique twin-boom layout which locates both engines close to the centre of lift, minimising thrust asymmetry.
Dale Johnson, vice-president of product development at Morrow Aircraft, says the company decided to produce the Boomerang after sampling the aircraft's benign handling. The forward-swept wing "-does not stall", he says.
Both booms, one of which is the fuselage, carry vertical tails, which means that rudder effectiveness is maintained by propeller wash down to low speeds, even with one engine failed, he says.
The production Boomerang will be scaled up by 15%, and payload increased by 20%. Maximum gross weight will be about 2,850kg (6,250lb). Two turbocharged Teledyne Continental TSIO-550s, flat-rated to 240kW (325hp), will provide a maximum cruise speed of around 300kt (550km/h) and range will be "in excess of" 3,700km (2,000nm), Johnson says.
The six-seat aircraft will be pressurised to 0.483bar (7lb/in2), and both passengers and crew will enter through a large fuselage door (the pilot enters the original aircraft through a cockpit window). This door will be large enough, Johnson says, to allow the Boomerang to be converted quickly to cargo or air ambulance configuration. Other design changes include a one-piece windshield, replacing Rutan's characteristic "spectacles".
Johnson says that Morrow hopes to certificate the Boomerang within "two to three years" of the prototype's scheduled debut at next year's Oshkosh show. The aircraft is planned to be sold for around the same price as a fully equipped New Piper Malibu Mirage or Raytheon Beech Baron - "in the low $800,000s", Johnson says.
Morrow is still raising money for the project, beginning with the $3 million needed to build the protoptype. A further $12 million is estimated to be required for certification, Johnson says. The firm was formed by Ray Morrow, founder of avionics firm II Morrow and co-founder of airship builder American Blimp.