No matter which sector of the aviation industry you work or play in, you will know the feeling upon seeing an aircraft type you just cannot put a name too. Well, I grew up assembling plastic Airfix kits, studying each new addition of The Observers Aircraft Guide, reading every new issue of Air Pictorial, Aviation News and countless other magazines to keep up with the latest developments. As I got a bit older regular visits to the big aviation show cases at Farnborough (UK) and Paris (France) helped keep me up to date with developments across the industry.
Nowadays it’s easier, it’s all on the internet, just Google or Wikipedia it or search YouTube. Except it isn’t, not always.
I was recently invited to oversee ramp operations at an air show support airfield. On looking at the list of acts I noted something new to me, a Speedtwin. Just what the hell is a Speedtwin? This led to much head scratching!
Further investigation via the web turned up a very limited amount on Wikipedia, and nothing on YouTube.
At the show I meet the demonstrator pilot and Managing Director of Speedtwin Developments Ltd., Malcom Ducker and fired off a barrage of questions about this unusual twin to which he gladly responded in detail.
The Speedtwin is a British designed and built light, twin-engine, 2 seat, tandem configuration aircraft that has superior performance, strength and flexibility when compared to other similar aircraft. Its superior maneuverability and twin-engine layout make it uniquely suitable for the soon to be introduced EASA and FAA requirement for all airline pilots to undergo Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), as loss of control in-flight has become the No.1 single cause of air transport accidents.
The Speedtwin is the only fully aerobatic, civil, multi-engine aircraft around and is stressed to +6G and -3G, meaning it is tough and highly manuverable aircraft making it ideal for the UPRT role.
The Speedtwin’s short, rough field performance, twin engine configuration and economy make it highly suited for many other roles including maritime surveillance, border patrol and protection of remote industrial sites such as oil and gas installations.
It is specifically designed to operate from short, grass or desert strips hence the tail-wheel configuration, giving the operator great flexibility as it can be based anywhere there is 100 metres of dirt!
Visibility from the cockpit is superb and is an outstanding feature of this aeroplane. It is probably the best performing and safest aircraft in its class.
The example I examined is a prototype, made of aluminium with 2 x 205 hp engines and fixed pitch propellers, which is a bit like driving a car stuck in 3rd gear. Even so it has a good single engine performance, which means it is suitable for any over-water or other hostile terrain flying duties such as maritime surveillance, fisheries protection and other coastguard type duties. The production version will have constant speed props, which will enhance the aircraft’s performance significantly. It will be able to loiter on one engine while in the search area giving an endurance of more than 8 hours. The 400 litre fuel tanks give the aircraft a range of over 1000 miles or 1700km.
The aircraft has received UK CAA Permit certification and continues to be used for development and demonstration flying. Further investment is now required in order to achieve full EASA certification, which once received will enable the Speedtwin aircraft to enter commercial production.
Due to the relatively low cost of manufacture, (it is of all aluminum construction), the Speedtwin aircraft can be both competitively priced and highly profitable. It is estimated that the aeroplane can be manufactured for US$240,000, and sold for US$480,000.
Interest in putting the Speedtwin into serial production is mostly coming from China and the Middle East.
Malcolm Ducker flew Hawker Hunters in the Royal Air Force and was a training captain with Cathay Pacific Airways, flying Lockheed Tristars and Boeing 747-400s before seeking new challenges in aviation by taking on Speedtwin Developments Ltd
Malcolm says that the Speedtwin is a delight to fly and he enjoys flying it even more than the big Boeing and even the supersonic Hunter! No surprise for me there, as I walked up to him following one spirited demo flight I could not help but notice that he was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat!
The manoeuvres Malcolm make during his display included ½ Cubans, loops, barrel rolls, aileron rolls, Derry turns, wingovers and steep turns.
Photographs: courtesy of Frank Grealish, WorldAirPics.com