The Lancair 320 is a kit aircraft, and you need to build it yourself. Customers were expected to be private pilots. It is a single-engined, low wing, two-seater light aircraft with a retractable undercarriage. The kit was manufactured and sold by the US company Lancair, who produced many kit aircraft, generally well thought of, but known for being unforgiving and challenging for the inexperienced pilots to fly.
In 2017 the assets of Lancair were sold, but the new buyers still operate the company as Lancair International, LLC. However, the Lancair 320 is out of production, although Lancair International continues to support it with parts and technical assistance.
- Crew: 2
- Length: 21ft 0in (6.40m)
- Wingspan: 23ft 6in (7.16m)
- Height: 7ft 0in (2.13m)
- Wing area: 76.0sqft (7.06m2)
- Empty weight: 1,040lb (472kg)
- Gross weight: 1,685lb (764kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 1,685lb (764kg)
- Fuel capacity: 43 gal (163 litres)
- Powerplant: 1 × Textron Lycoming O-320 air-cooled flat-four, 160hp (120kW)
- Maximum speed: 260mph (420km/h, 230kn) at sea level
- Cruise speed: 240mph (390km/h, 210kn) at 7,500 ft (2,300 m)
- Stall speed: 63mph (101km/h, 55kn)
- Range: 1,450mi (2,330km, 1,260nmi) (no reserves)
- Service ceiling: 18,000ft (5,500m)
- Rate of climb: 1,650ft/min (8.4m/s)
It is difficult to be specific about prices for the Lancair 320, as the kit is no longer being made, so no new aircraft are available. However, second-hand Lancair 320s, which have been made up, do turn up from time to time. But the prices vary quite dramatically, depending not only on the age and state of repair but of course on how well they were built in the first place! This is the case for all amateur kit build aircraft. But to be a bit more precise, I have seen prices varying between $48,000 and $95,000. However, it should be noted that the Lancair Legacy, a more modern version of the Lancair 320, is still available as a kit that cost $71,500 in 2011. So that gives you an idea of the sort of prices these aircraft go for.
Performance and Handling
The Lancair 320 is known by pilots for being beautiful, fast, and extremely enjoyable to fly. But this is only part of the story. It is only true if you are an experienced pilot who has trained properly on the type. If you are not, then the Lancair 320, or any Lancair, is likely to bite you. In fact, according to AOPA, Lancair mishaps make up a disproportionate number of fatal accidents in the reports. These accidents tend to involve loss of control and stalls or spins, unlike the majority of private aviation accidents, which are caused by pilot error or bad weather.
With a top speed of 418 km/hour, the Lancair 320 is fast and slippery. It can, therefore, easily get out of control in inexperienced hands. Also, small wings and powerful engines make for fast aircraft with poor glide performance. Even experienced Lancair pilots who love the aircraft often comment that they don’t hold out much chance of a successful recovery from engine failure in a Lancair. Prospective Lancair owners need to clearly understand that a Lancair 320 is very different from the usual flight school aircraft on which most people learn to fly and is much less forgiving.
Having said all this, the Lancair 320 is very responsive and great fun to fly, IF you are experienced and well trained on it. But it does require a great deal of skill, care, and attention.
There are no factory-approved maintenance manuals for aircraft like the Lancair 320. However, Lancair International can provide all the maintenance required for Lancair owners; details are on their website. The Lancair Owners and Builders Organization (LOBO) can also provide assistance with maintenance and have a series of articles on different aspects of Lancair maintenance on their website.
Modifications and Upgrades
As with most kit-built aircraft, there have been a large number of modifications due to the fact that some builders think, rightly or wrongly, that they can improve on the original Lancair design. Nothing stops them from doing this, so long as the modification is safe and effective. Thus you can find Lancair 320s with larger engines, or which have been changed to fuel injection, and a host of other modifications. Unless you are a technical expert and know about these things, it would definitely be a good idea to get these aircraft checked over by an engineer before buying one. But that applies to any second-hand aircraft, in particular a kit-built one. Remember: a kit-built aircraft is only as good as the original builder.
Where to Find Replacement Parts
Lancair International continues to supply parts for the Lancair 320, even though the type is out of production. Other companies also supply them, as can be discovered by a search on the internet, and there are often some replacement parts on eBay and similar sites.
Some of the common problems of the type have been mentioned above; in particular, the Lancair 320 is difficult to fly well, and its fast speed and relatively small wings make stall/spin accidents more common than they should be. Also, as with any kit build aircraft, its safety depends to a large extent on how well the aircraft was built in the first place, and not all amateur aircraft builders have the required skills. So the Lancair 320 has a disproportionately high number of accidents, often serious ones and the accident reports are full of accounts of Lancair 320 loss of control incidents. So if you decide to buy one of these, do be exceptionally careful, and make sure you obtain the training required from someone who knows about the type and can teach you to fly it properly.
The market for general aviation insurance overall is fairly small. It is even smaller for Lancair aircraft. Insurance brokers work with Lancair clubs to provide liability and hull insurance at reasonable rates. But it has always been difficult to ensure Lancairs of all models because of the high loss rate of these types. This means that only three or four underwriters provide coverage these days. The Lancair Owners and Builders Organization (LOBO) particularly recommends Gallagher Aviation Insurance, so it may be worth looking at them first.
As stated earlier, second-hand Lancair 320 prices vary quite dramatically. So if you want to sell yours, how well will it keep its value? The answer is that it will probably keep it fairly well, owning to the enduring popularity of these aircraft and the fact that they are becoming more rare and difficult to find. Indeed, some Lancair second-hand models sell for about the same as the original new kit price. Although when you consider that the new Lancair 320s came in kit form, and if you buy one now, it will have been built and probably flown and tested for some time, perhaps that is not so unusual. But it does mean that when you come to sell on a Lancair 320, you could be pleasantly surprised by how much it is worth.
It can be quite difficult to find reviews of all Lancair models, as they are not common aircraft. However, it is possible, and we have managed to find some…
One owner, in particular, gave an honest and balanced account of the pros and cons of owning a Lancair 320:
“From the beginning, you need to understand that I am a loyal and passionately devoted proponent of Lancair aircraft. I make this statement because I purchased a completed Lancair 320 on 18 Mar 1999 and have since flown more than thirteen hundred hours in the machine. Over the years, the aircraft has been to every corner of the country, from San Diego to Seattle, Key West to Maine, and all points in between. I’ve literally flown it cross country (from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back) nearly seven times.”
The owner later continues:
“But make no mistake: these machines can be extremely unforgiving, and they will kill the inexperienced or those lacking in attention to detail. Leap out of a C-172 and into the cockpit of one of these aircraft without acquiring proper training and practice, and you are asking for a one-way trip to the mort locker. I’m not trying to sound dramatic, though it will unquestionably come across that way. Pilots need to understand the differences between how these aircraft operate in comparison to the standard fleet of Cessnas and Pipers. Leave your egos at home and look at the reality of the situation. As you mentioned, these are “go-fast” machines that are designed to cover a lot of ground in a little bit of time.”
But then he says, still later in the same review:
“But my god, are they wonderful to fly. My ship is beautifully responsive. Though nowhere near as harmonized as, say, an RV-4, it’s a ‘fly with your fingertips’ machine. They just don’t like to go slow. That may sound ridiculous but think about it for a moment. The most dangerous time for an inexperienced (or experienced, for that matter) Lancair pilot is when they find themselves in the landing pattern. If your attention is drawn away, say you are aggressively looking for traffic, or something else captures your concentration, and the airspeed slips out of your scan, when this airplane stops flying, it is going to eat up a great deal of altitude before Bernoulli starts to function again. The bottom line: don’t get slow, and you’ll be okay. I simply love my airplane. Should it ever shut me up in Davy Jones’ locker, it will not be a failure on the machine’s part, but of the decision-maker at the controls.”
Other Lancair owners, whatever model they fly, also emphasize that the Lancair planes are fun but will certainly bit the inexperienced. Here are some examples:
“Fast planes in the hands of low time pilots with the urge to fly beyond their capabilities spell disaster from the get-go.”
“I am not an expert on Lancairs, but I do know a little bit about people, so I would speculate that the accident rate tells us a lot more about the type of folks who are likely to want and fly a Lancair.”
“I think you will find that most of the accidents are not caused by the flying characteristics of the Lancairs, but by pilot error (flying into thunderstorms, running out of fuel, etc.).”
But as you may well have realized by now, not everyone agrees with this final statement!
The Lancair 320 is based on the Lancair 235 but has a larger fuselage and a more powerful engine. It is also very similar to the Lancair 360, but the latter has a still more powerful engine. These two models were later developed to produce the Lancair Legacy, which is also fairly similar. But other than these Lancair models, there are not very many similar aircraft. Lancair’s do stand alone in their flying characteristics.
Clubs You Can Join
In a company with many kit aircraft, owners of these types particularly like to join clubs, mainly in order to get advice from other owners. Lancair 320 owners can join the Lancair Owners and Builders Organization (LOBO), which claims to promote the safe use of Lancair Aircraft through education, training, and improving communication between club members. They can also help with maintenance. This is the main group for Lancair 320 pilots and owners.
There are also several Facebook groups for Lancair owners and builders. And any of the associations for self-build or experimental aircraft are more than happy to welcome Lancair 320 pilots.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I’ve never built an aircraft before. How hard is it to build your own, a Lancair 320, or anything similar?
Answer: Many sources would have you believe that it is quite easy. But to be ho0nest, unless you are experienced at this sort of aircraft building, you may well find that it is a steep learning curve. Aircraft building involves a lot of different skills, and you will need to learn them all before you can build an aircraft safely, and you cannot skimp on this. So think carefully before taking it on.
Question: How long does it take to build your own aircraft?
Answer: Again, some people would tell you that you can finish a kit build aircraft in just a few months. But private pilots’ garages all over the world are full of part build kit aircraft that have been there for several years. I have known a few of these pilots. Basically, unless you enjoy building aircraft at least as much as flying them, you would be better advised to get someone else to build it for you. This is legal in most countries, but there are different rules about this, so do check the details carefully.
Question: How fast is a Lancair 320?
Answer: It has a top speed of 418 km/hour, so it is very fast by light aircraft standards.
Question: If I buy a second-hand Lancair 320, how do I know if it’s been built properly?
Answer: The short answer is that you probably don’t, and that is the problem. So do make sure that you get a technical expert to look it over carefully before parting with your money….and possibly risking your life.
Question: Where can I get training to fly a Lancair 320?
Answer: LOBO has a comprehensive list of Lancair instructors on its website.
The Lancair 320 is said to be fast, responsive, and extremely enjoyable to fly. But it is also slippery, difficult to handle for the inexperienced, and likely to get out of control if you are not very careful, possibly resulting in disaster. Most owners love them, but many less experienced pilots would not go near an aircraft like this, and they probably should not. So the choice is yours, but if you do decide to get one, find appropriate training and then be very careful.
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Wikimedia. By PA – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Wikimedia By FlugKerl2 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Wikimedia By FlugKerl2 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0