Edgley EA7 Optica
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Edgley EA7 Optica

Combining the visibility of a helicopter with outstanding slow-flying capabilities, the original concept for the Edgley EA7 Optica was as a three-seat touring aircraft. Designer John Edgley, at that time a post-graduate student at the Imperial College of Science & Technology, London, began the final aerodynamic design in 1974 and a model was wind tunnel tested in 1975. Construction of a prototype began in 1976 in London, and final assembly was carried out at the College of Aeronautics, Cranfield. The first flight was made on 14 December 1979 with a 119kW Avco Lycoming O-320 engine but this was later changed to a 134kW IO-360. The engine drives a five-bladed fixed-pitch ducted fan, and the Optica is claimed to be the world's quietest powered aircraft.

Mounting the whole cockpit assembly ahead of the fan and engine gives the pilot and passengers 270 panoramic vision, plus almost vertical downward vision; the cockpit canopy design allows photography through the panels. The tricycle landing gear is fixed and unfaired, with maintenance-free solid suspension, and the airf rame is of all-metal construction; its internal cabin width of 1.68m permits three-abreast seating, while baggage space and positions for mounting specialised observation equipment are provided behind the seats and in the unrestricted floor area in front of the two passenger seats.

Roles for the Optica are virtually unlimited, from the obvious aerial photography and surveillance patrols to traffic reporting, powerline inspection etc, and it has the ability to perform much of a helicopter's work with fixed-wing economy and range. Considerable interest was shown in the Optica from the time of its first appearance, and at the 1981 Paris air show the announcement of a first production order was made - 25 for Australian distributor H. C. Sleigh Aviation Ltd.

With GBP 2.3-million funding, Edgley bought Old Sarum airfield near Salisbury, and set up a production line in existing hangars. Initial plans covered the construction of 200 aircraft, beginning in mid-1983, with first production models to be available at the end of that year for approximately GBP 55,000 each. However, the crash of an early production aircraft in 1985 led to the collapse of the company. In October 1985, Optica Industries was formed to continue activities, and by the end of 1986 15 aircraft had been produced. In January 1987 the factory was destroyed by arson along with all but one airworthy Optica. The company was reformed again as Brooklands Aircraft (later Aerospace), and the Optica Scout, renamed the Scoutmaster, returned to production with a 194kW Textron Lycoming O-540 engine. Six had been delivered to customers by the end of 1989. In March 1990, after building another five aircraft, all manufacturing was halted and a receiver called in. In July 1990 the Optica project was acquired by Lovaux Ltd at Hum and a resumption of full-scale production and marketing is planned. Continuing optimism for the Optica concept is supported by market studies indicating that around 8,000 aircraft are used wholly or partly for observation work, ranging from expensive helicopters to simple single-engined fixed-wing types, but none specifically designed for the task, and a sales penetration of 5% or 10% would bring substantial business.

 ENGINE1 x Avco Lycoming IO-360 flat-four piston engine driving a ducted fan, 149kW
    Take-off weight1236 kg2725 lb
    Empty weight850 kg1874 lb
    Wingspan11.99 m39 ft 4 in
    Length8.15 m27 ft 9 in
    Height2.31 m8 ft 7 in
    Wing area15.84 m2170.50 sq ft
    Max. speed203 km/h126 mph
    Cruise speed174 km/h108 mph
    Ceiling4265 m14000 ft
    Range1046 km650 miles

Comments1-20 21-40
Barry, 05.04.2016

At the time of writing John Edgley is looking to outside companies to restart production with a different engine and more up to date avionics. However, he is willing to leave things lie if the deal is not right.

GREG, 28.10.2015


David, 19.08.2015

Is this company still for sale? I would be interested in purchasing what's left and getting this thing into full production. Seems to me it needs a full revamp to get it into the 21st century - carbon-fibre components, glass cockpit, revision of general aerodynamics. I agree with one of the other comments that the stall speed is too high.

Michael, 05.08.2015

I built a 1/20 scale foam model rcguy.tripod.com

S. Obrenovic, 12.07.2015

I remember seeing photos od this amazing aircraft in late 90's or it was around 2001-2002, and I was soooo overwhelmed, being already a pilot, I just wanted to fly it. Anyway, it was featured in one movie with Lance Henriksen, just that I can't remember the title. In that movie, they added a sound of jet turbine.

Emlyn Coldicott, 08.07.2015

John Edgley currently owns the complete Optica and Sprint projects (see earlier posting below). Aircraft 021 has been fully restored and is flown regularly in the UK, and was recently on show at the 2015 Paris Air Show. The aircraft is fully certified and all the tooling exists, but it is not currently in production. Anyone needing specific information, please contact me at emlyn@aeroelvira.co.uk

R. Turner, 29.04.2015

I would appreciate some current information on this aircraft and any uses to which it has been put. Was it a fully certified airplane for civilian use? Is it legal for use in the United States? Who currently holds the production rights?

lauren, 18.11.2013

Hi,does anyone know how much the Optica would cost to buy?

tony moore, 25.09.2012

Any news as to when these amazing aircraft will be back in production

Mike, 09.10.2011

sharkit.com now has a resin kit

ronald, 10.08.2011

I'm looking for a small die cast model of the edgley EA7 optic. Anyone any tips on where to get one?

dasanbi, 20.06.2011

These planes would be everywhere, driving a lot of business out..Why all these planes are considered 'retired'...they are too good for commercial use!

, 20.06.2011

Edgley EA7 Optica 1979

Frank Hall, 10.05.2011

All the advantages of the helicopter..except vertical T/O and landing.. at three times the price and no profit until you've sold 160. Maintenance nightmare.

deepblue, 04.04.2011

A very unique aircraft by all standards. I hope this design gets back on the air again after mass production. Every cutting edge designs have its setbacks from the Gee Bee racers, the BD-5J and other cute but lethal flying machines however a careful pilot always finds a way out alive or he simply runs out of luck.

Tom Chytil, 10.12.2010

This aircraft should have had some type of leading edge slats or similar devices to bring down the stall speed.
I believe that there were a couple of stall/spin fatal accidents.

Barry Moule, 14.03.2010

Go to www.seabirdaviation.com.au before thinking of buying an Optica.

Mike, 03.03.2010

A most awesome airplane. The Edgley Optica is one of the most inovative aircraft designs in General Aviation history. A fantastic concept that has come a long way. I've never personally wanted to own an airplane until now. I hope that when this does go back into production, and I have no doubt that it will, I hope that composite materials will be considered to replace much of the sheet metal, but either way will be fine with me. If you are a fan of the Edgley Optica, please visit my Optica fansite at facebook.com/optica.optica and sign up as a friend. All the best to John Edgley for all that he has done and all the Optica fans as well.

don hartridge, 26.02.2010

where can I see an Optica please? i live in tisbury,Wilts

Serge, 21.11.2009

I bow to the John Edgley, fine plane! I am going to build something similar! With the great pleasure I will accept advice, wishes and other technical helps! may by someone flied by this machine? Thank's

1-20 21-40

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