Lancair International, Inc. (pronounced ‘lance-air’) is a U.S. manufacturer of general aviation aircraft kits. They are well known for their series of high-performance single-engine aircraft that offer cruise speeds that surpass many twin-engine turboprop designs. Along with the Glasair series, the early Lancair designs were among the first kitplanes to bring modern molded composites construction to light aircraft.
The company was founded by Lance Neibauer in 1981 as a producer of composite homebuilt aircraft kits. Neibauer had been introduced to aviation by his uncle Ray Betzoldt, who had collaborated with Al Meyers to build the Meyers 200. Whenever he visited his aunt and uncle, he always took a ride in the Meyers. Hooked, he went looking for an aircraft twenty years later and found nothing that he liked, and decided to join the EAA and design his own.
Neibauer started work on the new design by asking every builder he could find what features they were looking for in a homebuilt design. Looking to improve performance with the latest possible features, he selected the new NASA NLF 0215-F airfoil designed by Dan Somers at Langley. The NLF, short for "Natural Laminar Flow", is a series of designs that replaced the older GAW series with more forgiving laminar flow characteristics. By 1983 the aircraft's basic parameters were fixed, and Neibauer rented a shop in Santa Paula, California and started work on the design.
Intending to introduce aircraft at Oshkosh in 1984, a minor fuel leak in the wing tanks forced them to miss the show in order to fix the problem. A modified version of the prototype with re-shaped cowling and some changes to the wing profile emerged as the "Lancer 200" in December 1984. Equipped with a 100 hp Continental O-200 engine, the Lancer easily outflew anything powered by the same engine and generated intense interest at Oshkosh '85. However, a naming conflict forced the design to be re-christened, finally going on sale in 1985 as the Lancair 200.
The 200 was quickly replaced by the Lancair 235, equipped with the slightly more powerful Lycoming O-235. Re-engined versions quickly followed; the Lancair 320 with the 150 hp Lycoming O-320, and the Lancair 360 with the 180 hp Lycoming O-360. A new tail was introduced for the later models in order to address stability problems at low speeds with the larger engines.
The Lancair designs provided the highest performance in the single-engine GA class, and as the kit-build market was dominated by pilots looking to outperform existing "off-the-shelf" designs, the Lancair's kits sold well. By the end of 1990 they had sold over 600 kits for the various two-seat models, giving them what Neibauer claimed was 30% of the kit-built market.
A Lancair 320 appeared in a 1995 exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Starting in 1990, Neibauer turned his attention to a four-seat design that would retain the qualities of the earlier two-seaters. These efforts culminated in the Lancair IV, a four-seat optionally pressurized (IV-P) single-engine aircraft with a high cruise speed. The IV broke all existing speed records in February 1991 when it averaged 360.3 mph between San Francisco and Denver.
Already stretching the limits of their existing facilities, the company started looking for a new factory and after examining 200 potential sites they moved to Roberts Field in Redmond, Oregon in 1992. The company became Lancair International with the move. As of August 1998, according to Flight International, Lancair had sold 1,400 kits, 300 of them the Lancair IV model. Soon after the IV was introduced, Neibauer started work on a simpler fixed-gear version that emerged as the Lancair ES.
In 1994 NASA launched the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) project to re-energize the rapidly downsizing general aviation market. A series of factors, including new regulatory restrictions and immense liability claims rendered the GA field unprofitable, and most manufacturers had abandoned the "low end" to concentrate on the business aircraft market. American GA aircraft production numbers had declined from 18,000 in 1978 to 954 in 1993, an all-time low. The only area that seemed to be vibrant was the home-build market, where the liability issues were not as much of a factor.
Prominent among the homebuilt market was Lancair, and in 1994 NASA and others encouraged Neibauer to develop an FAA-certified aircraft., On 3 April 1993 he spun off a new company, Pacific Aviation Composites USA, in nearby Bend, Oregon. The new Lancair LC-40 was based on the fixed-gear ES. The first prototype flew in July 1996, followed by the certification prototype in early 1997.
After a lengthy certification process, the design emerged as the Columbia 300 in 1998, followed by the turbocharged Columbia 400 in 2000. The 400 included a new glass cockpit that was developed on NASA's own 300 under the AGATE program, and was later put into the production model 300's to produce the Columbia 350 in 2002. The Lancair Company was formed as a separate entity on 7 April 2000 and Pacific Aviation Composites was merged into The Lancair Company on 4 May 2000.
Deciding to focus on the Columbia models, in March, 2003 Neibauer sold the kit side of the company to Joseph Bartels, a Louisiana attorney and Lancair IV-P builder and owner. Bartels had already formed Aero Cool to sell air conditioners for the various Lancair models. On 15 July 2005 Neibauer's portion of the company became Columbia Aircraft. The Columbias competed relatively unsuccessfully with the new and first-to-market Cirrus SR22.
Following its entry into bankruptcy in 2007, Columbia Aircraft was sold to Cessna in November 2007. Cessna produces their models as the Cessna 350 and Cessna 400.
Bartels has continued sales of the latest Lancair designs, including the IV and IV-P, ES and ES-P, and the Legacy and fixed-gear Legacy FG. The Lancair Legacy is the latest version of the original two-seaters, offering increased interior size and even higher performance. The latest kit model is the Lancair Evolution, which was unveiled at Sun 'n Fun at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, FL on April 8, 2008. It is powered by a choice of either Lycoming TIO 540 piston engine or Pratt and Whitney turboprop.
On 4 February 2009 the company announced that it is relocating to a new and larger building near the Redmond Airport. The new facility is 38,000 sq ft (3,500 m2), or 50% larger than the old building. The company reports that despite the economy that demand for kits and in particular the Lancair Evolution is strong. The company also signed an agreement to provide 25 modified Lancair Legacy FG kits to the Colombian Air Force for the primary flight training role.
Between 1981 and July 2008 132 amateur-built US registered Lancair aircraft have crashed, resulting in 107 fatalities.
- Lancer 200 2-seat prototype powered by a Continental 0-200 engine, flown in 1984
- Lancair 200 2-seat kit powered by a Continental 0-200 engine, released in 1985
- Lancair 235 2-seat kit powered by a Lycoming O-235 engine, released in 1986
- Lancair 320 2-seat kit powered by a Lycoming O-320 engine, released in 1988
- Lancair 360 2-seat kit powered by a Lycoming O-360 engine, released in 1988
- Lancair ES
- Lancair IV
- Lancair IV-P
- Lancair Legacy
- Lancair Propjet
- Lancair Sentry
- Lancair Evolution