Comp Air 7
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COMP AIR 7 - "Performance That Knocks Your Socks Off"
Text by Norm Goyer -- Photos by Bill Fedorko

The moment of truth has arrived. Bring the power up to 30 percent torque, and release the brakes. As the plane starts to roll, increase the power lever for smooth and continuous acceleration. When the engine is up to full takeoff power, check the engine temps, and make sure the torque limits are not exceeded. By the time you've done that - in maybe 4 seconds - the plane is off the ground. (We used about 75 feet (maybe less) for our takeoff roll. Maintain Vy (110 mph). Now came the fun of flying in a super-powered aircraft. Maintaining a 4000-fpm climb, we were already about 1000 feet above pattern altitude before reaching the end of the runway! Once the climb rate is established, reduce the prop lever to anywhere from 1900 to 1950 rpm for cruise climb. Check the pattern again for any possible traffic, because the Comp Air 7 is so powerful, you'll be joining the traffic in a matter of seconds.

Our outstanding climb in the Comp Air 7 was all for naught, because we had to circle over the Atlantic Ocean to wait for the Comp Monster to catch up to us. When it got into position, it soon became obvious that the Comp Air 7 was an outstanding photo platform; the rear door came off, and Editorial Director Bill Fedorko had ample room to move around the cabin to find the perfect positions from which to shoot his photographs. Once we established contact, we proceeded according to our agreed-upon plan, and the two Aerocomp planes flew over Florida's beautiful beaches for a half-hour photo shoot. Our Comp Air 7 pilot had to throttle way back to stay in formation with the Comp Monster, but both the planes were so versatile, we had no problems at all. When the photos were completed, I got to take my turn flying the Comp Air 7 and see what this turbine aircraft could really do.

I had made a note of the recommended power settings for various cruise conditions, so I could see how close the figures in the manual were to reality (which sometimes differs significantly for homebuilts). Because our plane had a three-blade prop, I held the rpm to between 1800 and 1950. If the airplane in which you're flying has a Walter engine and a five-blade prop, hold the rpm to between 1700 to 1850. Then reduce the torque, and check to make sure the ITT does not exceed 690 degrees. Once you have the right power setup, you can increase the tension on the knobs on the power quadrant to prevent creeping.

As soon as the plane was in medium cruise, I checked out the controls by doing 360s in both directions. These maneuvers are quite a test of the airplane's controls, because you have to use all the controls to keep the altitude steady and prevent skidding or slipping. I had to use some rudder, but it wasn't a problem. In spite of the fact that there was such a huge engine in a relatively small plane, the aircraft handled beautifully, and there was little vibration.

Next, I reduced power and tried my hand at slow-flight and stalls. I held the stick back until my arms finally got tired. It just wasn't going to stall without a lot more work. I noticed we were bouncing along at about 45 mph, and the plane was still flying. I had to use a great deal of rudder to hold the wings level, because the ailerons had given up several mph before. It finally made a half-baked effort to stall, but as soon as I relaxed the controls, it quickly recovered from the near-stall. This plane's inherent stability is a result of its great wing and excellent airfoil.

Now it was time to see how fast it would go. I was able to get it to a true airspeed of about 235 mph at 5500 feet. The manual states it will easily do 280 true at 21,000 feet. It will carry loads up to 1670 pounds for a gross weight of 3770' pounds. The plane flew a lot like a Cessna 206, but it didn't have the heavy fore-and-aft pressures of the Cessna. Of course, these can be trimmed out, but the Comp Air 7 had a slightly better feel to it.

Looking down at the fuel gauges, I saw it was time to head back to the airport. As we entered the pattern, I reduced power and put the prop lever full forward. I then reduced the power lever to achieve the correct rate of descent but didn't reduce it below the idle stop position. I then checked the beta light to make sure it was off. (Funny things happen when the prop starts pushing instead of pulling.) The manual says the pilot should not let the speed drop below 80 mph indicated during the approach. I used about 15 degrees of flaps on downwind, then used full flaps when I turned final. I didn't want to have to change the tires, so I made sure the parking brake was off and my feet were off the brakes. The manual also recommended not doing wheel landings (unless we wanted to redesign the prop tips), so I set up for a three-pointer. As the plane got closer to the runway, I pulled up the nose just a tad. When we were about 3 feet off, I gradually applied full aft stick. The plane squatted and stayed down. I then flipped up the lockout on the beta prop and made the next turnoff. Flying the Comp Air 7 was practically a no-brainer. It's an easy plane to fly, and you've got to admire its top-notch performance.

The complete kit is $39,995. The Walter engine firewall-forward kit is $45,995. The carbon-fiber tail reinforcement costs another $3000. This comes to a grand total of close to $89,000. You can build it yourself from a kit in your workshop, but I highly recommend you do it the easy way and sign up for one of Aerocomp's building schools, where you'll actually put together your own airplane under the supervision of an experienced Aerocomp advisor. Those who've already built one agree that this is the best way to go. By the time you've built your Comp Air 7 and installed a Walter engine package in it, you will probably have spent close to $125,000. In today's aircraft market, that might buy you a Maule. Add another $25,000 and the total ($150,000) might get you a Cessna 172 or a Piper Warrior. It's your decision.

But if you're serious about buying an airplane in these price ranges, I have one warning: Don't go up for a demo ride in a Comp Air 7 with a turbine engine, because if you do, you'll be so impressed by this powerful, remarkable aircraft, the minute you land, you'll whip out your checkbook and order one right then and there. I know, because that's what I felt like doing.

Text by Norm Goyer
Photos by Bill Fedorko
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Text by Norm Goyer
Photos by Bill Fedorko

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