More feedback after finally taking delivery of the aircraft and making some nice flights up to FL180. I finally feel confident enough in the airplane and myself to take passengers along.
Essentially I can confirm everything I said before.
800 m runway is okay for a safe take-off at sea level / ISA but you don’t want any less and you definitely want more in a high density altitude situation.
The take-off job itself is very easy, and I don’t understand how some journalists could say that it takes a few flights before take-off is in check.
Just after rotation, aim for 8 degrees of pitch, retract the gear and then readjust pitch.
Fly straight ahead, retract flaps and make sure you see 100 KIAS before any bank. That’s it…
Climb is something like 120 KIAS / 1000 fpm at 75% power (you can climb at MCP but I don’t do that).
You can also do 800 fpm and around 135 KIAS, probably ideal on hot days.
75% Cruise is 32 inches MAP 2400 RPM, 24 GPH (91 liters per hour), because leaning is limited by max TIT of 1650F.
(the POH says 1750 but other owners said this will fry the turbo)
Cruise speed is 175 to 220 KTAS depending upon altitude. For example 205 KTAS at FL180.
Cockpit comfort is out of this world.
Roomy, nicely ventilated, air conditioned and heated (mine even has seat heating which I already used once), with great visibility for a pressurized aircraft.
There a few ergonomic issues I will fix after allowing some more experience (like the landing gear lights being out of sight !!!) but all in all it is a very fine aircraft.
Climbing with such authority to FL180 and cruising there at 200 knots is a new feeling to me and I am very impressed. It is easy, safe and so much less stressful than dodging TCUs and CBs down low…
And this same aircraft will happily go play in the clouds, 15’000 ft lower when you feel like it. It is not as agile as a DA40 of course but there is something very satisfying in throwing such a heavy and powerful plane into a “high” g maneuver and seeing it dance along.
The rudder to aileron interconnect is a bit of a disturbance factor. It take a lot of experience to master the rudder inputs (I still don’t) and keep it coordinated.
My typical problem is that the ball is overshooting to the other side when I apply rudder.
Descents are the most spectacular part. The Extra 400 slashes through the air at dizzying speeds (I saw 280 KTAS!) with ease. The strength of the airframe and the short wings make it rock solid and the pressurization system works very well even at -1500 fpm.
Landings are challenging because of a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personality:
The aircraft is very slippery UNTIL the gear is out. Then it literally stops flying (!) unless you apply 25 inches of MP and 2500 RPM.
This will make 100-110 KIAS in level flight which is perfect for setting approach flaps. Did I mention this piece of aerodynamic art? The fowler flaps of the Extra 400 (designed in the mid 1990s) drop stall speed by an incredible 18 knots. Compare this with any of the more recent designs and you’ll see.
Final approach is 90 to 85 knots and touchdown is … I don’t know, maybe 65?.
You don’t do full stall landings but (try to) grease it in with some energy left over. The gear does absorb a lot of energy but not in the way a trailing link would.
The typical short final maneuvering is one hand on the throttle gradually reducing power while the other is firmly holding the yoke and compensating for gusts etc while trimming nose up. Sound more difficult than what it really is – it is quite natural but requires a firm hand.
The Extra 400 handles crosswinds like a champ. Absolutely remarkable stability and rudder authority. One-two-three landing is OK thanks to the strong and well damped main gear. One has to be careful when letting the nose gear touch down. It carries the huge load of the engine and looks quite flimsy.
I have had 2 icing encounters so far. Both light. No noticeable aerodynamic signs.
The heating systems (prop, windshield, dual pitot, dual static, stall warner) work like a charm and the boots are also very effective and easy to use.
The aircraft has two huge alternators and the de-icing systems make no noticeable impact on the power generation.
Strangely, switching the AC on and off causes a noticeable pitch excursion (!?) and seems to impact airspeed (3 knots), to be confirmed.
The STEC autopilot is outdated. Yes it kind of works but overshoots and fishtails in an embarrassing way.
The yaw damper works too but rudder trim is almost impossible to adjust.
The trim potentiometer has a useful range of maybe 5 degrees of rotation.
Anything beyond that throws the aircraft into a scary bank.
Easily fixed by replacing the pot with another one and two resistors I suppose.
The cabin is huge and comfortable for 4 people. The luggage compartment is not that big but ok.
The aircraft lacks a stowage area for tow bar, oil and general accessories…
I believe the Extra 400 is a great aircraft. It is recommendable only to owners who are technically interested AND competent : maintenance is challenging due to lack of manufacturer support for both the airframe and engine. Troubleshooting requires the owner/operator to manage his technical resources and fight for attention/solutions while getting creative to avoid being ripped off by certain parts suppliers.
I have never owned a Malibu/Mirage but I would imagine that the Extra 400 is more expensive to operate. This said I would rate the Extra 400 superior in every respect, based upon PIREPs from people who have experience in both.
Another interesting comparison is a fully refurbished and upgraded Extra 400 vs a new Diamond DA62.
The pressurized Extra will cost half the investment and beat the Diamond in every category except for the autopilot where the Extra really is outclassed.
I am now getting personally involved in all maintenance activity. This has helped me build a lot of self confidence when flying and increase my ability to perform in-flight diagnostics. I am now much more competent when it comes to answering this question: “do I need to abort the flight”.
The aircraft is very complex and some of the systems are not developed as they would be with larger production numbers. I have come to the conclusion that it is advisable to take the aircraft in for 25 hours check, lift it and thoroughly check/test the gear, re-inflate the shock absorbers (they need 57 bars) and make a general round of lubrication. Also, using the iphone’s slow motion, make a video of the retract to make sure all is well.
It is a bit tedious, but I believe that this 25 hour rythm is what it takes to proactively detect and manage impending issues with the landing gear. It is also a good time to check the engine for any leaks.
Now that cooler days are here, I am seeing really great performance. Climb at 1000 fpm straight to FL200. 185 to 205 KTAS depending upon settings there.
Sounds great. You would be amazed how many people never check their gear on jacks – even at the Annual.
The winter is good for flying Less haze and a more positive ROC
Yes ROC is optimal these days. I have seen 1000 fpm from FL0 to FL200 at MTOW on a more or less ISA day.
On that flight I had a temperature logger installed. There were 7 probes at various locations in the engine compartment.
Two of them got my attention:
First one is located inside the intercooler on the intake side, so it is measuring the temperature of the compressed air.
Despite the near ISA temps, the temperature of compressed air steadily grew from 50C at sea level to a staggering 110 C (yes C!) at FL200.
This was with an OAT of minus 23, so really the charge air was 132 C above ambient.
This got me to do some research and I found out that it is perfectly normal. So now I know why these turbocharged engines struggle on hot days and have some kind of power limitation in their AFM above FL200. Makes perfect sense – the cooling system is simply killed by air density down at 0.37 x Sea Level.
Unfortunately the probe that was installed on the “cool” side of the intercooler did not work. Very frustrating because the flight would have been perfect for meaningful data collection…
I can already say that investigation of the intercooler’s performance and a relentless chase of all air leaks around it are high on my priority list. I must make sure that this thing does the very best job it can under the installation circumstances.
My findings are applicable to all turbocharged engines operating above FL150 – PA46 comes to mind: get your intercooler(s) to do the very best they can.
I am thinking of installing a permanent Intercooler In / Intercooler out temperature display. This will be invaluable on hot days to manage engine strain in the climb!
Learning sooo much…. it is fascinating!
The second probe that got my attention was installed in the general area where the cabin heat mixer valve is installed.
Extra400s are known for having weak heating, and get unpleasantly chilly when OAT goes deep in the negative.
Found the reason: The heating ducts are located in this area of the engine compartment where sub-freezing temperatures are registered. Who would expect this ?!? This shows the extent of development that still needs to go in the Extra 400’s engine installation!
That will be an easy fix. I look forward to testing it and I’m sure a few fellow E400 operators will be delighted to know!
https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=213223 – Friday 13th strikes again :(
Luckily no injuries.
A spokesman for airport owner Argyll and Bute Council said: “A private aircraft carrying three people had an unsuccessful take-off this afternoon. Thankfully nobody was injured.
That is one of the shortcomings (’scuse the pun) of the E400: It NEEDS a lot of runway .
Oban has an ASDA of nearly 1200m – perhaps they forgot to use take off flaps?
I have inquired about this: it was a botched aborted take-off due to the pilot seeing a large flock of birds at the end of the runway.
He would have needed another 50m of runway to finish his emergency braking.
I am very sad to share this. Tim was the lead of our soon to be founded Extra 400 Owners and Operators Association. He was a generous man who made a very significant contribution to our community.
May their souls rest in peace.
The latest EA400 accident is indeed unfortunate.
I am wondering if there is a common thread with EA-400 in takeoff/climbout?
I know one EA-400 reported fuel pressure issues in flight (forced landing) however the other accidents may not be fuel related.
If any of these planes has a multipoint egt/cht/TIT monitor it would be nice to see the data.
I really dont buy the ‘EA-400’ is a runway hog argument as I fly a Pressurized Cessna P210N with 4000# MTOW and only 310HP TSIO520. A 350HP TSIOL550C should easily deal with 4400# MTOW. There must be something else going on.
Its a shame as this plane is a great concept and is an attractive next plane for me.