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Low Cost Jet in a Rutan-Styled Package

Jet Guys showcase turbine-powered canard

By James Wynbrandt

July 25, 2018 - Upgrading from piston to jet power is more affordable than you may realize, and the proof — a Rutan-inspired canard aircraft built around a GE T58 turbine engine — is on the flightline just beyond the Brown Arch.

“You’ll really be amazed at the cost of the airplane,” said Robert Harris, founder and owner of Jet Guys, a shop in Covington, Tennessee, that helped owner Lance Hooley build what they call the JetEZ. “You could have one for quite a bit cheaper than the cost of a new 172,” he added.

A year ago, Lance, Robert, and the Jet Guys team debuted the JetEZ, N815EY, at Oshkosh to showcase the concept of turbine-powered aircraft based on Burt Rutan’s canard airframes. The JetEZ is the first purpose-built canard jet produced by the shop, which specializes in canard aircraft. Though it resembles a Long-EZ, JetEZ is four inches wider in the middle, six inches longer in the rear seat, stands a foot taller, and is considerably beefier than a Long-EZ. The spar and the canard are heavier and stronger to accommodate the increased forces induced by higher airspeeds.

The Jet Guys also presented a seminar at this year’s fly-in, “So You Want to Build a Jet,” explaining the process — and challenges — of building these one-offs.

“If you want to build one, keep it simple,” Lance advised. “So many people want to go overboard with gadgetry” that the designs can become unworkable. “Change one thing and you [need to] change six more,” he added.

Attesting to the challenges, a new jet the company built with airplane owner John Albritton scheduled to be shown alongside the JetEZ had a fuel control problem on the day of departure and had to stay home.

More canard jets are in development, and Robert said they’re all different. “We don’t sell plans, we don’t sell kits,” he said. “If you want a jet we’ll help you build one, but you’re going to make 51 percent of it,” as per homebuilding rules. “We don’t do turnkey deals for profit.”

Robert said the T58 is the ideal engine for these applications, and the company is trying to secure every one of the powerplants they can. “Ten or 15 of them would be nice — the T58-F in particular,” he said.

In addition to Robert and Lance, fabricator Mike Yancey, turbine engine guru Steve Braley and Ryszard Zadow from the team are here, eager to answer questions. None of them have heard Rutan’s views about these projects, but Lance said, “I’d love to meet him, mostly just to say thanks for the inspiration to keep this going.”

The JetEZ is now for sale, and Lance is preparing his next project, which will be figuring out how to make a two-place trainer out of a Long-EZ so more people can learn how to fly the aircraft.

“You can’t see the runway from the back seat, so you can’t monitor what a student is doing,” Lance said. He plans to modify a conventional Long-EZ to make the trainer. “It’s in my garage, completely gutted,” he said.

Meanwhile, Robert is looking ahead to a non-Rutan style project: a 63 percent-scale model of an A-10 Warthog. “I’ve done some concept drawings. It looks doable,” he said. And why 63 percent scale? “It will fit in the hangar.”

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