Legendary aircraft designer Ed Swearingen died on Thursday at age 88, on the eve of the resumption of production of his persistent light jet–the SJ30–by current program owner SyberJet. It was 1986 when he unveiled the small, single-pilot jet powered by a new breed of turbofan engine by Williams International that would propel the airplane swiftly and far, with performance that outstripped most business jets of the era. It had airliner-like swept wings fitted with complex high-lift devices, a fuselage strong enough to endure a 12-psi max pressure differential for a sea-level cabin altitude at 41,000 feet, narrow landing gear legs that retract into the fuselage and impressive range and speed.
Every Swearingen design reveals his obsession with performance and his willingness to break from design tradition. From the skinny-fuselage Metro series of turboprops to the SX300 kit-built piston single to his final produced design, the SJ30, there is a distinctly common DNA among all these aircraft: that narrower fuselages go faster.
Swearingen was also a pilot, and in all he designed 30 airplanes. He was reportedly working on his 31st when he died.