The Edgley EA7 Optica: An Observation Aircraft
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The Edgley EA7 Optica: An Observation Aircraft

The Edgley EA7 Optica: An Observation Aircraft, Edgley EA7 Optica

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Designed by John Edgley in 1974 with a prototype constructed in 1976 following wind tunnel tests in 1975, the Edgley EA7 Optica is an eye catching airplane owing to its strange looks. What made it unique compared to conventional aircraft designs is its cockpit which was shaped comparatively similar to helicopters like the Bell-47, Aerospatiale Alouette, MD-520, and other models with bubble canopies. Utilizing a ducted fan instead of a pusher propeller to enhance visibility at the rear was another design feature which differentiates the aircraft and of course, there were those twin booms similar to a Cessna 337 Skymaster with horizontal and vertical stabilizers configured like that of a De Havilland Sea Vixen. Describing this aircraft with portions of the fuselage and tail resembling a particular rotary and fixed wing aircraft model suggests that the whole aircraft design seemed to have morphed as an independent design combining the special features from those aircraft mentioned in comparison.

14 December 1979 marked the first flight of the prototype with an Avco Lycoming O-320 piston engine driving a five-bladed ducted fan. Its appearance at the 1981 Paris Air Show allowed it to gain recognition and initial orders from an Australian client however the delivery of the first fully certified aircraft to Hampshire Police Air Support Unit was marred by a tragic crash in 15 May 1985 which dimmed the momentum of possible market interests on the aircraft. The pilot and the passenger perished while conducting airborne patrol to monitor traffic with the crash linked to four possible causes one of which was attributed to mishandling of fuel selector switch. Despite the effect of that accident, Edgley moved on to establish Optica Industries five months later leading to the completion of 15 aircraft by 1986. Another setback brought by an act of arson on the factory in 1987 left the company further to collapse which eventually led to bankruptcy in 1990 and the transfer of ownership of the tooling relative to the  aircraft design.

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John Edgley reacquired the rights to the design in 2007 with a newly established company AeroElvira and the Optica aircraft is making a very optimistic comeback after all the circumstantial hindrance that limited its right to establish a market niche as one of the promising cost-effective alternative to airborne surveillance with the characteristics of a helicopter and operating costs of a conventional fixed wing aircraft.

Edgley EA7 Optica Performance Specs:Cruising Speed: 174 km/h (108 mph)

Maximum Speed: 203 km/h (126 mph)

Service Ceiling: 4,265 m (14,000 ft)

Range: 1,046 km (650 mi)

References:

http://www.aviastar.org/air/england/edgley_optica.php

http://hampshireconstabularyhistory.org.uk/?page_id=1897

http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2008/09/13/315743/optica-designer-seeks-manufacturing-partners-to-relaunch.html

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Comments (7)

Looks like a flying bug! I love it!

Saw it at the Paris air show but had completely forgotten about it until reading this article,

Thanks for the comments, Charlene, Jerry. The aircraft itself is very ideal for the prime purpose of sightseeing above treetop level and sure looks like a bug.

Looks more to me like a dragonfly. Good facts here, Will.

If only I can afford one. I have many uses for it.

This is so well presented for a totally wonderful education for me in this area. Thank you. Voted up.

Stopping to read this once more.

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