Arguably the most eye-catching aircraft on display at LABACE is the ultra-sleek Epic LT six-seater turboprop on show at Somma Aviation’s outside stand (5116). The aircraft is a revolutionary kit-built, carbon-fiber, high-performance transport that has caused quite a stir in its home country of the U.S. Now Somma is looking to bring in a certified version tailored specifically to the Brazilian market.
Quite apart from its blistering performance, with a maximum cruising speed of 325 knots and climb speed of 3,000 feet per minute, the Epic LT is remarkable for being a kit-built aircraft, although the aircraft are assembled by owners in Epic’s Bend, Oregon facility. For a shade under $2 million a new owner can acquire the aircraft kit, receive instruction, tools and assistance that allow them to assemble and finish it, plus a flight-test and pilot training package. The result of the build is an aircraft powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A flat-rated at 1,200-shp and driving a Hartzell four-bladed full-feathering propeller. The aircraft is furnished to a luxurious standard, and is equipped with a three-screen Garmin G900X avionics suite, including synthetic-vision technology.
Currently the Epic design is available as the LT, which is flown under an “Experimental” classification that means it cannot be hired out. However, Epic is now working on gaining full certification, by 2015, for an enhanced aircraft known as the Epic E1000. Among the improvements will be an increase in certified ceiling to 34,000 feet from the current maximum of 28,000 feet. The additional ceiling, which can be attained in 15 minutes, will provide not only a greater margin of weather clearance, but also reduced fuel-burn in the cruise. At an economic cruise speed of 265 knots the E1000 has a range with reserves of 1,650 nm. That figure falls to 1,385 nm at 325 knots with maximum passengers.
Customized for Brazil
Somma Aviation became the Brazilian dealer at the start of this year, and the first action was to order a kit-built LT to act as a company demonstrator in Brazil. That aircraft is currently in the build process, and should be completed before the end of 2013. To satisfy regulations, at least 51 percent of the kit-built aircraft must be assembled by amateurs, and that entails around 12 weeks or more in the Epic plant working on the aircraft. Total build-time is between six and 10 months, depending primarily on availability of the builder and of the PT6A-67A engine.
Somma’s LT aircraft will reflect several changes that are dictated by the demands of the Brazilian market. It will be completed with a weather radar, and the engine will have an inertial separator to avoid foreign object damage being caused by operations from semi-prepared airstrips. The company envisages a key area of the market being operators who routinely fly to outlying agricultural areas where airfield infrastructure may be sparse at best. Somma’s aircraft will also have a refined interior, including windowshades and keypad avionics interface.
While the LT is being used for demonstrations, slots are already being booked for the E1000, and it is that aircraft that Somma will be selling into the Brazilian market. The company has had some input into the E1000 configuration, such as the addition of angle-of-attack indicators in the cockpit. The aim is to sell completed aircraft that have been assembled in the U.S. by the dealer, at a price that is more than that of the Piper Meridian, but well below that of the Pilatus PC-12.