I read on AvWeb that the Extra 500 is closing in on its FAA certification and that Extra is gearing up for a major push in the US market. The 500 has had its EASA certification for some time.
But the weird thing is how few, if any, of these aircraft you see around. Not that I expect to see them at my local airfield, but at least in videos online or at shows. All I keep seeing is the one factory demo and that's about it. Very little online about them.
Maybe my taste is weird, but I happen to think that the Extra 500 is one of the most gorgeous aircrafts ever made. I love that high wing sleekness - it looks like a bush plane and a business jet all rolled into one. Rugged. I'd much rather have that than a TBM850, if I had that kind of money. Which, incidentally, when it comes to turboprops - isn't that much: £1 million. That's a lot less than an 850. Granted, it can't fly as fast as the 850, but it burns only 19gph! That's just marginally more than a high performance piston, and in an real term money spent, probably less (as Jet A1 costs less).
So, why so rare? Cheap, certified, roomy, luxurious, 1600nm range etc - what's not to like?
(BTW, that's Walter Extra himself flying it in these pictures).
I wish them the best of luck in the US and hope they sell tons of 'em. Read more at:
Yes it looks a very nice plane - much more economical than most other turboprops. They tried very hard to sell me one at Friedrichshafen 2010. I do think it really has a lot of potential, as a step-up for piston pilots who do not have the 10x higher funding, not to mention the vastly different mission profile to even make use of such a machine, to get a TBM or similar.
Perhaps people are worried about the company's financial stability. It went bust recently, and god knows who is backing it now. If it is a bunch of vulture capitalists, you need to watch out. Just look at the Diamond/Thielert fiasco, and the utter fiasco of the Eclipse. You can run an Extra 300 (a simple plane) if the company goes, but you will have a lot of fun running a 500 without a parts and certification backup.
I think they're back from bankruptcy and have new strong funding. And what I like about the company is that Walter himself is very involved - he test flies, he markets and is generally the guy you talk to - it's got that family business feel even though he might have new partners now.
I hope to see more of them. So, Peter, why don't you get one?
As a side note - isn't it funny how the carbon maffia has bamboozled everyone into thinking that if an aircraft is made of carbon fibre, it will automatically be lighter? Far from the truth - they're often heavier. Resin isn't light.
Even more astonishing is the hate aimed at wood - did you know that Birch wood is 1.7x times stronger than Aluminium in Modulus of Elasticity? People simply refuse to believe that. In canoeing for instance, a wooden cedar strip kayak will beat both a carbon fibre and an Aluminium one hands down in weight.
So Robin, Extra (the aerobatic ones) and the rest might have gotten it right: a wooden wing doesn't corrode, doesn't fatigue and it will almost always be lighter.
The planes isn't as amazing as the marketing specialists try to make it look. In the POH the greatest range shown is 1588nm. But that is attained at only 40% power where you will be doing only 165kts and you will need nearly 10 hours.
Not many people like being in the air that long. The best power setting of 55% at 25K ft leaves you with a range of less than 1400 nms. Still quite good. The problem is that getting to 25K ft takes quite a while because its climb rate above 20K ft is so anemic that few people will go that high: at 25K ft at ISA it can only do a ridiculous 175fpm, at ISA +20C is drops below 100fpm. A Jetprop will still do 1300fpm and 1100fpm repectively under the same conditions. Most people would fly the EA-500 plane in the mid teens where its cruise speed is almost respectable(for a turbine) and range is 1000nm.
IMHO the plane is underpowered. That is why you can fly it very economically, but if you cash out $1.5-$2 mil for an airplane you are interested in speed rather than economy.
With less comfort, you'd be able to fly a $300k Mooney achieving same speeds and range.
This plane is obviously aimed at a market gap between the high end pistons and the TBM.
High end pistons have plenty of issues: engine management and mostly not making TBO if used to the full, high cockpit vibration levels compared with turbines, an awesome oxygen usage at FL200+, and one cannot compare the cramped cockpit of a Mooney with the cockpit of the E500. Sure one would not want to sit in a Mooney for 10hrs, but the ability to do a 1500nm nonstop flight in 9-10hrs is a plus, going to the further corners of Europe where the matrix of avgas/customs/opening hours gets pretty sparse. I've done three 6hr flights in the last 2 weeks, and for a good reason, avoiding loads of useless airports and useless fuel stops. Long range does have a market, even in a 2-seater. If you can do door to door, you will beat an airline anytime on the total trip time (especially Ryanair which makes you drive 20% of the GC distance in the opposite direction ).
The TBM costs about 5x more per mile than a high end piston. It goes about 2x faster. The despatch rate is probably 99%. And you pay nicely for that... But it still can't outclimb any respectable CB, so its ability to cross serious frontal weather enroute will not be much different to a plane whose ceiling is 25k. You will still probably be in IMC, using radar to find gaps. And a plane with a 25k ceiling will outclimb most non-frontal weather.
The Jetprop is very good but with the PT6 will cost more per mile (on the DOC) than the E500. OTOH you can buy a used JP, or a used PA46 and convert it, total cost about $1M for a reasonable example with the stronger PA46 hull, and it will cost a lot less than a E500 which doesn't exist on the used market.
IMHO this is a tough market to break into. There will be precious few IFR piston owners with the dosh to buy anything at/over $1M. Perhaps 1% can. And I think those who have $1M can also afford $2M or $3M... There seems to be a continuous spectrum from zero to say $300k among what I call normal working people, but the bigger amounts are the sole province of people who have a big business, or have sold a business, or made a fast buck somewhere, etc. And those spending $1M or $2M will be doing their due diligence, and will go for a proven solution (Jetprop, Meridian, TBM, etc) because they (well, perhaps excluding some bankers) have made their money with the application of a lot of care and patience in their business.
There will be precious few IFR piston owners with the dosh to buy anything at/over $1M. Perhaps 1% can. And I think those who have $1M can also afford $2M or $3M...
The EA500 comes near to $2M once you have all the goodies you want. Although I would wish that new aircraft find more acceptance in the markets, it is very hard for new competitors to make up for the experience of the established players.
Take your $2M and get a used TBM 850 and you will have more ceiling, range, speed and prestige and after a few years you will still get more money back for it than for the EA500.
Well, I really hope it does well just because the market needs another option.
The TBM 850 is of course a pretty bird, I'll be the first to say that. Everyone loves it just like everyone loves BMW's. Myself, I've always enjoyed left field cars and left field products. It's how I'm wired, I suppose. Whenever all my friends went straight for the BWM dealers the minute they got credit (), I always drove Citroens, Fiats and Saabs and crazy stuff like that. I wouldn't buy a BMW in a million years. I appreciate them and think they're great cars, but they're not quirky and individualistic enough for me. I suspect it's the same with airplanes. I have zero interest in Cirruses and the stuff most pilots seem to want. However, this bird ticks all my boxes and that's why I'm rooting for it and hope it does well.
I also think this aircraft will be much more versatile - I doubt a pilot would think twice about taking it into a short grass strip, whereas they'd probably be terrified to do that in an 850 or a Jetprop. And getting closer to your destination is handy for time savings, not to mention cheaper.
Underpowered is of course subjective. Compared to the other single engine turboprops - for sure. Or maybe they're overpowered?
What I like is the range and the reliability of turbine of this type. I've never understood why aircraft manufacturers put in such small tanks - I understand I can't fill the plane up with people and go +1000nm, but when I'm alone and have no baggage, why not? Empty tanks don't weigh a thing.
Now, where did I put that 1.6 mill dollar wad again?
On the E500, I recall they were going to have a certified ceiling of 25k. Any plane which can reach 25k is not "underpowered".
I've taken a glider to 27,500' and it was still climbing at 100-150fpm. Only stopped climb because I was concerned about oxygen consumption/reserves. Nice to know that even without an engine it's not 'underpowered' Heheh :-)
I think that the diesel burning pistons will offer best performance / economy over a "cheap" TP and provide the ideal stop gap for the "moderately wealthy" pilot (as opposed to the super rich). For example a DA42NG will be far cheaper to buy, maintain and operate than the E500, will burn half the fuel and will cruise only slightly slower at similar levels with equal if not better range, and has two engines.
If one can afford mega bucks then I'd go for something that can cruise at 250-300kts, ideally a Phenom VLJ.
Under a million dollars will buy a used B200 King Air which has all the capability one needs....good load carrying, good range, good for the higher flight levels, reasonably quick, great avionics and reasonable times left on the engines. Add another quater of a mill and you can have zero timed engines with 3600 hrs left on them. Of course you get a KA maintenance bill to go with it...