|Type||privately held company|
|Key people||Joseph Bartels|
|Products||Lancair 360, Lancair IV, Lancair ES|
|Website||Lancair Performance Aircraft|
Lancair International, Inc. (pronounced ‘lance-air’) is a U.S. manufacturer of general aviation aircraft kits. They are well known for their series of high-performance single-engine aircraft that offer cruise speeds that surpass many twin-engine turboprop designs. Along with the Glasair series, the early Lancair designs were among the first kitplanes to bring modern molded composites construction to light aircraft.
The company was founded by Lance Neibauer in 1981 as a producer of composite homebuilt aircraft kits. Neibauer had been introduced to aviation by his uncle Ray Betzoldt, who had collaborated with Al Meyers to build the Meyers 200. Whenever he visited his aunt and uncle, he always took a ride in the Meyers. Hooked, he went looking for an aircraft twenty years later and found nothing that he liked, and decided to join the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and design his own.
Neibauer began working on the new design after asking every builder he could find what features they were looking for in a homebuilt design. Looking to improve performance with the latest possible features, he selected the new NASA NLF 0215-F airfoil designed by Dan Somers at Langley. The NLF, short for "Natural Laminar Flow", is a series of designs that replaced the older GAW series with more forgiving laminar flow characteristics. By 1983 the aircraft's basic parameters were fixed, and Neibauer rented a shop in Santa Paula, California and started work on the design.
Intending to introduce aircraft at Oshkosh in 1984, a minor fuel leak in the wing tanks forced them to miss the show so they could fix the problem. A modified version of the prototype, with re-shaped cowling and some changes to the wing profile, emerged as the "Lancer 200" in December 1984. Equipped with a 100 hp Continental O-200 engine, the Lancer easily outflew anything powered by the same engine and generated intense interest at Oshkosh '85. However, a naming conflict forced the design to be re-christened, finally going on sale in 1985 as the Lancair 200.
The 200 was quickly replaced by the Lancair 235, equipped with the slightly more powerful Lycoming O-235. Re-engined versions quickly followed; the Lancair 320 with the 150 hp Lycoming O-320, and the Lancair 360 with the 180 hp Lycoming O-360. A new tail was introduced for the later models in order to address stability problems at low speeds with the larger engines.
The Lancair designs provided the highest performance in the single-engine GA class, and as the kit-build market was dominated by pilots looking to outperform existing "off-the-shelf" designs, the Lancair's kits sold well. By the end of 1990 they had sold over 600 kits for the various two-seat models, giving them what Neibauer claimed was 30% of the kit-built market.
A Lancair 320 appeared in a 1995 exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Starting in 1990, Neibauer turned his attention to a four-seat design that would retain the qualities of the earlier two-seaters. These efforts culminated in the Lancair IV, a four-seat optionally pressurized (IV-P) single-engine aircraft with a high cruise speed. The IV broke all existing speed records in February 1991 when it averaged 360.3 mph between San Francisco and Denver.
Already stretching the limits of their existing facilities, the company started looking for a new factory and after examining 200 potential sites they moved to Roberts Field in Redmond, Oregon in 1992. The company became Lancair International with the move. As of August 1998, according to Flight International, Lancair had sold 1,400 kits, 300 of them the Lancair IV model. Soon after the IV was introduced, Neibauer started work on a simpler fixed-gear version that emerged as the Lancair ES.
In 1994 NASA launched the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) project to re-energize the rapidly downsizing general aviation market. A series of factors, including lack of design innovation, high interest rates, and declining purchasing power of the American middle class led to dramatically reduced sales. Coupled with rising costs due to new regulatory restrictions and increasing liability claims arising from the static designs of an aging fleet, the previously dominant "low end" GA market became unprofitable. Established manufacturers abandoned that market to concentrate their new designs on where the money had gone: to the lower-volume but profitable high-income personal and business aircraft market. Consequently, American GA aircraft production numbers declined from 18,000 in 1978 to 954 in 1993, an all-time low. The only area that seemed to be vibrant was the home-built market, where liability issues were not as much of a factor, where modern design innovation substantially improved aircraft performance, and where owner-builder free labor reduced the cost of a new modern airplane to levels that the American middle class could better afford.
Lancair's innovative and high performance designs were prominent in the homebuilt market, and in 1994 NASA and others encouraged Neibauer to develop an FAA-certified aircraft. On 3 April 1993 he spun off a new company, Pacific Aviation Composites USA, in nearby Bend, Oregon. The new Lancair LC-40 was based on the fixed-gear ES. The first prototype flew in July 1996, followed by the certification prototype in early 1997.
After a lengthy certification process, the design emerged as the Columbia 300 in 1998, followed by the turbocharged Columbia 400 in 2000. The 400 included a new glass cockpit that was developed on NASA's own 300 under the AGATE program, and was later put into the production model 300 to produce the Columbia 350 in 2002. The Lancair Company was formed as a separate entity on 7 April 2000, and Pacific Aviation Composites was merged into The Lancair Company on 4 May 2000.
Deciding to focus on the Columbia models, in March 2003 Neibauer sold the kit side of the company to Joseph Bartels, a Louisiana attorney and Lancair IV-P builder and owner. Bartels had already formed Aero Cool to sell air conditioners for the various Lancair models. On 15 July 2005 Neibauer's portion of the company became Columbia Aircraft. The Columbias competed relatively unsuccessfully with the new and first-to-market Cirrus SR22.
Sold to Cessna
Bartels has continued sales of the latest Lancair designs, including the IV and IV-P, ES and ES-P, and the Legacy and fixed-gear Legacy FG. The Lancair Legacy is the latest version of the original two-seaters, offering increased interior size and even higher performance. The latest kit model is the Lancair Evolution, which was unveiled at Sun 'n Fun at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, FL on April 8, 2008. It is powered by a choice of either Lycoming TIO 540 piston engine or Pratt and Whitney turboprop.
On 4 February 2009 the company announced that it is relocating to a new and larger building near the Redmond Airport. The new facility is 38,000 sq ft (3,500 m2), or 50% larger than the old building. The company reports that despite the economy the demand for kits and in particular the Lancair Evolution is strong. The company also signed an agreement to provide 25 modified Lancair Legacy FG kits to the Colombian Air Force for the primary flight training role.
- Lancer 200 2-seat prototype powered by a Continental 0-200 engine, flown in 1984
- Lancair 200 2-seat kit powered by a Continental 0-200 engine, released in 1985
- Lancair 235 2-seat kit powered by a Lycoming O-235 engine, released in 1986
- Lancair 320 2-seat kit powered by a Lycoming O-320 engine, released in 1988
- Lancair 360 2-seat kit powered by a Lycoming O-360 engine, released in 1988
- Lancair ES 4-seat kit powered by a Continental IO-550
- Lancair IV
- Lancair IV-P
- Lancair Legacy
- Lancair Tigress
- Lancair Propjet
- Lancair Sentry
- Lancair Evolution
- Lance Neibauer, "The Lancer 200", Sport Aviation, April 1985, p.11
- "Lancair International, Inc.", International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 67, St. James Press, 2005
- "Columbia Aircraft: A Legacy Of Performance"
- Business Registry Business Name Search, Pacific Aviation Composites USA, LLC
- "The Lancair LC-40 Columbia 300/350/400", airliners.net
- Business Registry Business Name Search, The Lancair Company
- Textron (November 2007). "Textron's Cessna Aircraft Company to Acquire Assets of Columbia Aircraft". Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- Russ Niles (November 27, 2007). "Cessna Gets Columbia". Retrieved 2007-11-29.
- Russ Niles, "Lancair Evolution Flies To Sun 'n Fun", avweb, 7 April 2007
- Grady, Mary (February 2009). "Another Bright Spot - Lancair Moving To Larger Facility". Retrieved 2009-02-05.
- Niles, Russ (February 2009). "Lancair Sells 25 Military Trainer Kits". Retrieved 2009-02-05.
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