Twenty-first Century Canard Homebuilt

Curt Boyll

On a flight from Southern California, I stopped last night in Kanab, UT really low on fuel. But this was deliberate, because fuel is priced really cheap there. This morning I fueled up and the bill was only $687.50 for 125 gallons of Jet-A.

At AirVenture twenty years ago, I spoke with George Rourke, Rolls-Royce Senior Vice President for New Business Development, North America. A feature of his pavilion was the mockup of the Williams International/Rolls-Royce/NASA FJ22 Small Turbofan Engine. This engine was to be priced at $50,000 apiece.

Mr. Rourke was surprisingly candid. He said that the engine was not going to have the advertised thrust level (~1,000 lbs.) and that it would not have the desired durability, nor the target specific fuel consumption. He stopped short of saying that the engine development project would be a failure. Which, of course, it ultimately was. So I apparently was notified that Eclipse would not be using the FJ22 … before they learned it.

Not far from the Rolls-Royce pavilion, Pratt & Whitney had a large booth in one of the vendor buildings. Part of their display was a cut-away mockup of the PW610 Small Turbofan Engine. It really doesn’t matter that the Pratt engine costs about a half million dollars. They would never sell one to a homebuilder, anyway.

I built and flew a radio-controlled model of this configuration in 1998, and in 22 test flights it flew just as X-Plane said it would. Also in 2002, Dr. Dan Raymer critiqued the design, and my complete aircraft systems analysis and weight & balance, after I attended his Aircraft Design class at UCLA. A few years later, Dr. Marc Zeitlin confirmed that, yes indeed it is certainly possible to build a pressurized aircraft like the SuperTandem using the methods and materials that we use to build Longs and Cozy’s.

I installed this aircraft for X-Plane on a MOTUS full-motion 6 DOF GA simulator at Windsong, Aviation, Jeffco Airport in 2001. I was training to get my certificate there, and the big MOTUS was the first FAA Approved full-motion GA simulator West of the Mississippi River. I was hired as the simulator support engineer because the MOTUS ran X-Plane.

My instructors and the Flight School Manager really liked flying the SuperTandem. As Dr. Raymer explained, it becomes a three-surface configuration at positive AOA. And without the need for Flaps, it can be flown down to about 70 KIAS. Cruise at 17,500 MSL is 305 KIAS. The design was to use the same cabin pressure exit valve as in the Boomerang, allowing single-pilot operation up to FL260.

A SuperTandem could probably be built today for less than $150,000, including the FJ22, if it had been successful. Back then, I really thought the legacy of Rutan Canard homebuilt derivatives could be extended with a design for the 21st century.

That year at Oshkosh was really fun and amazing for my wife and I.

Curt Boyll
VariEze, Cozy - Colorado