White Lightning

Discussion in 'Home Builders and Sport Pilots' started by Flyvulcan, Nov 30, 2019.

  1. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Rather than getting off-topic on other threads, I thought I’d start a specific thread around the White Lightning aircraft. It is then an easy and quick reference thread for those wishing to learn about the aircraft and chew the fat about it.

    I shall start by giving some background to my interest in the aircraft.

    I have been an admirer of the WL ever since it was first released. The performance offered when fitted with a 210hp engine was impressive. Not only impressive, but demonstrated impressive, not just on paper.

    Over the years, I have built a small database about the aircraft. I have conversed with a number of builders/owners who have passed on their experiences to me.

    I now have 3 of the original kits in various stages of construction, including one “new in box” kit (one kit mine, two for a friend). I also have Nick Jones collection of drawings from his original design of the aircraft. I also own the molds, tooling etc for the Lightning Bug which is the WLs smaller single seat brother but that’s another story.

    In my full time job, my company is developing a low-cost, fuel-efficient 200hp turboprop engine which once in production, I intend to put into my personal WL. My intention, when time permits, is to resurrect the WL in modern form, incorporating improvements in the design and buildability to offer the performance of the original, but with more practical features, I.e. the ability for a tall pilot to fit in and a stall that doesn’t flick it on to its back!

    Anyway, let’s open up the floor to discussion. If there is anyone out there with direct personal experience with the WL, please contribute your experiences. If you have photos, please post them. If you have one at your field, please get some photos. If you know an owner, please pick his brain about true performance. I for one would be interested to hear them.

    For interest, a friend of mine now owns N25WL and he will be bringing it back to airworthy condition.

    B7E8CD66-E7A2-4D73-805C-38FA7B7C0D65.jpeg

    I also have been getting feedback from the owner of N805WL.

    4EAA0335-4977-4B52-A8D8-7FE78FBF560B.png

    And here is a photo of one of my projects.

    2F01AF88-576E-4BE6-A4F7-C20178DA9BCA.jpeg
     
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  2. skier

    skier Line Up and Wait

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    The white lightning is a beautiful aircraft. Please keep up updated on your kit's progress.
     
  3. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    9EE79137-50A4-4320-96A7-DEEAEE03EDE5.jpeg 8DC3C118-FD82-4AF7-A2B5-C413AA3A5164.jpeg Man I always liked the WL. Used to talk to Nick all the time on approach when he flew out of his plantation. His strip was maybe 7 miles north of our base. Used to talk to his son on approach when he flew N444WL as well. When I saw ground speeds 220-230, I just had to go for a ride. Great flying aircraft, wish there were more of them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2019
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  4. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the photo and I love your wall art!

    I can’t make out the tail number on the Bug, but if it is N51JM, I.e. the original prototype, I bought the remains of that from Johny Murphy when I bought his other Bug kit. It’s now gone to that hangar in the sky, but I kept the data plate for posterity. The complete Bug kit that I bought from Johny has been transformed slightly...

    948B0041-5963-427C-85F2-5F4CB02DBC8F.jpeg

    Yes, I’ve transformed it into a twin-jet but the other Bug kit that my mate got at the same time is now flying with a 120hp Jabiru engine and fixed nosegear. It is still in its first 40 hours but is achieving 200ktas straight and level. Painting will clean it up a bit more.

    444D1FB5-7915-4C1D-A694-B95062AFD43A.jpeg

    Anyway, back on topic, the White Lightning.

    The owner of N805WL currently flight plans at around 10,000’, 215ktas and around 10gph. Not bad numbers.
     
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  5. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah when I went flying in N444WL I think I saw around 220kts average. We flew up to Walterboro to check out the facility. Back then I think it was called Fiber Reflex Corp or something like that. They had the little Lightning Bug on the ramp parked next to a race car for a photo shoot. Cool little aircraft but I would want at least two seats.

    Back then, N100WL was rotting on the ramp with its record setting flights on the side of the fuse. I remember wishing I had enough money to buy it and restore it. I imagine it’s destroyed by now.
     
  6. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    In February, 2017, I got to see a White Lightning at Depot Avionics in Alamosa, CO. Never knew of them before. Looks like a helluva airplane, and a whole lot to handle for the pilot. Here are a couple of pictures.

    The man in the picture is, I believe, the owner, but I'm afraid I've forgotten his name and most of the details of our conversation. Flying home in a Mooney was positively pedestrian after seeing the White Lightning!

    IMG_0217.JPG

    IMG_1357.JPG
     
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  7. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Welcome and good luck with the project.
     
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  8. AKBill

    AKBill En-Route

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    Thanks for sharing,,,
     
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  9. Gmonnig

    Gmonnig Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This is Exciting!!!!
     
  10. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    There is a guy here in NC that has a WL. I haven’t seen it but according to him it’s too far gone to be saved. Good luck with the startup!
     
  11. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks Grum. I'm pretty sure that I know the details about that one and I understand that it is repairable and indeed, repairs will start soon.
     
  12. kurttruk

    kurttruk Pre-Flight

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    Where are you located?
     
  13. James331

    James331 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Surprised it took someone this long to try to bring that excellent design back. Good luck and good job!
     
  14. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    I am located in Australia, my kits are currently in St. Louis but the current plan is to build my aircraft near Bowling Green, KY.

    Thanks!
     
  15. waldrokl

    waldrokl Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the photos!
     
  16. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Couple more pics after my flight. One thing I forgot about was the rearward facing passenger seats. Not sure if that was a kit standard or not. As I recall, the Wheeler Express used that design as well to maximize shoulder room.

    388B3B0E-312D-46DD-B502-F0BE0565F9E4.jpeg BF948199-FF7A-4A87-968C-0992B96F246A.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2019
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  17. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the pics Velocity173. Yes, the rear seats are all rearwards facing. I have spoken with a few folks that have flown in the rear seats and they say it is a little disconcerting to start off with but after a short while, with all the leg room they had, they indicated it was very comfortable.

    We have a new-build WL almost ready for flight here in Australia. I'm trying to get some photos of it. I'll post them when I can.
     
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  18. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    Any chance you could PM me about these? Not in the market but I'm in St. Louis and I'd absolutely love to see these before they disappear.
     
  19. kyleb

    kyleb Final Approach

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    I always assumed the rearward facing seats benefited CG and headroom.
     
  20. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I remember being in line for departure at GMU a year or two ago and tower stopped the departures, as a White Lighting had declared emergency for ‘fuel in the cockpit’. I thought to myself, that’s an odd place to have fuel... I take it their fuel system is less than conventional...
     
  21. nauga

    nauga Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Most airplanes with more than one tank have a fuel selector in the cockpit. While I'm sure there are some that are remote-operated, all of the ones I'm familiar with are direct and have fuel lines in and out. If one of these or the valve itself was leaking I'd report "fuel in the cockpit" too. It doesn't take much avgas to make a strong impression in the cockpit.

    Nauga,
    unsealed
     
  22. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Fair point
     
  23. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That helps as well. Also helps a bit for crash survival G forces. Just from an ergonomic and aerodynamic design point though, you have wide shoulder room and more leg room. Never been a fan of facing aft as a passenger though. Got real air sick one time.:(
     
  24. MikeS

    MikeS Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I was hanging around Ralph Wilcox's shop (Aerodyne, KSEE) in the 80's when the designers of this plane were doing their designing. Ralph was a pioneer in developing composites so I'm guessing that's what they were discussing. I didn't know until now just how far along that project went. Thanks.
     
  25. MountainDude

    MountainDude Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This is the most exciting part of this thread: "fuel-efficient 200hp turboprop engine". More info please!
     
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  26. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    I'm keeping it low key until the engine is actually running (so yes, it is still technically vapourware at the moment), but my company is developing a 200hp turboprop engine for experimental aircraft. The design has been ongoing for over 2 years and we are currently prototyping and testing components. We are aiming for first runs during the second quarter of next year (2020).

    Weight will run at around 210lbs with the design point being 180hp optimum cruise power at 10,000’, ISA conditions. SFC should be a shade under 0.50 lbs/hp/hr of JetA. It has a very small frontal area and will offer my White Lightning even better aerodynamic cleanliness. At a 180hp cruise power setting, I am hoping that my WL will cruise north of 230ktas and that should be at 90 lbs/hr (13.2 usg/hr) or throttle back to 150hp which based on the performance of existing WLs would offer a cruise of around 215ktas on 11 usg/hr.

    We have a booth allocated at Oshkosh 2020. Swing by and see us. We should have a real, running engine by then, all going well!
     
  27. MountainDude

    MountainDude Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I really wish you success. I cannot believe we still use engines designed in the '30s. How much would you predict the engine would cost? What about TBO? What about the cost of overhaul? Thank you.
     
  28. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for your wishes.

    We are hoping to have the sticker price for the uncertificated engine to be close to $60k. However, we are currently sourcing suppliers for both prototype components and production components. Over the next 2 months, we will have a lot more clarity around a more accurate cost. We could be off the mark with our target, but I hope not. Our test program may throw up challenges that affect cost as well, so it really is premature to be able to give an accurate number.

    TBO will be determined by testing. We are designing for 5,000 hours, but our initial target is 3,000 hours. However, it will be both testing and in-service experience that will determine the number we place on it.

    Overhaul cost will be determined by individual component requirements at overhaul (no requirement/check for wear then repair if necessary/component replacement). Our estimate is under $20k but again, design, testing and in-service experience will allow a more accurate figure to be determined in due course. We will be having a few engines running pretty well non-stop, both on ground and in the air (not non-stop of course) on a typical duty cycle so that we can check components at regular intervals for wear.
     
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  29. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    I have researched the status of the two WLs in Australia. Their registrations are VH-WLE and VH-WLO respectively. I have spoken with both their owners during the last 2 days.

    WLE has been retired following a hangar incident that resulted in some damage that has been deemed not to be economically repairable. WLO is pretty well complete and ready to fly but is currently being stored. The owner has other priorities at the moment so the aircraft will remain in storage until further notice.

    I am trying to get photos to build my database.
     
  30. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Here are some pics I just received of VH-WLE.

    3AB8B737-F841-41B8-A062-854A580BB790.jpeg

    29E67C8A-3DCA-4348-BB9F-9A9EB2507FFF.jpeg
     
  31. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Here are some pics that I took of N25WL (also known as Race 43 from her Reno days) when I inspected her a few years ago. This aircraft has recently been purchased by a friend of mine that will be undertaking her restoration to flying status.

    C99B5F1F-2BA5-458B-BFB2-D66CC5CCA211.jpeg 3501E6A9-69CD-43DC-8008-0ACDB982DCF7.jpeg 5168E63C-C730-464E-BBBD-D5D110B143F4.jpeg 9D6D635B-80B7-4244-B82C-DE2C3F447461.jpeg 4731FB84-6638-44F4-BD75-35F684F2E665.jpeg 5F3A7F39-7FB1-465D-ADDF-9BEC35FB986E.jpeg
     
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  32. Jacksonpop

    Jacksonpop Filing Flight Plan

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    Great post, thanks for sharing!
     
  33. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips En-Route

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    Given the information that I have access to, 0.50 for SFC would be beyond stellar for a small gas turbine. I'm interested to see how it works out. It is rather heavy, given the power output.
     
  34. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi Kenny.

    Yes, the weight is more than is typical for a turbine engine. However, our engine is not a typical turbine engine. In order to obtain a SFC close to incumbent piston engines, we have had to incorporate Recuperator (compact heat exchange) technology. This component, along with the necessary plumbing, casing etc adds weight over and above your traditional turbine engine. I anticipate that we will shave some weight off of that 210lbs estimate. Indeed, the latest iteration of our recuperator is lighter than our original iteration, but testing may determine that we need to put that weight back into it. I’d rather say 210lbs and then pleasantly surprise folks with a 190lbs engine than vice-versa.

    Anyway, prototyping and testing over the next 6 months will allow us to provide accurate performance and weight numbers that are demonstrable. Either way, a fuel-efficient, 200hp/210lbs Turbine engine for my White Lightning is still very appealing!
     
  35. Stan Boyd

    Stan Boyd Filing Flight Plan

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    The man in the picture is me with my White Lightning! I've just found this users group, and would love to stay in touch.
    Matter of fact, I'm now looking for a nose gear trunnion, manufactured by Airight, with a part number of 68000-1. Any help in locating one would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, folks.
    Stan Boyd
     
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  36. G-Man

    G-Man Line Up and Wait

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    Pleasure to talk with you again, Stan! Welcome to POA.
     
  37. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi Stan,

    Welcome to the thread and I'm very pleased to make the acquaintance of another WL owner.

    I have 3 WL kits and a pile of spare parts which have not yet been inventoried. The build of my WL is about to commence but I need to relocate everything I have to the builder assist shop first. That will happen in the next few weeks. Once at the shop, everything I have will be inventoried so that I know what I've got. If I have a spare nose gear trunnion, I'll let you know.

    If you are happy to do so, I'd like to discuss your WL with you to help build my knowledge bank about the aircraft. I shall pm you my contact details.

    Dave
     
  38. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi Stan,

    I had another thought on the nose gear trunnion. The WL shares its landing gear heritage with the Swearingen SX300, as Nick Jones based his gear design on that of the SX300. They were both manufactured by Airight. You could contact Doug Poli who holds the spare parts inventory for the SX300 group (http://www.sx300group.org/) and find out from him whether the nose gear trunnion for the SX300 might be compatible with the WL.

    I hope that helps.

    Dave
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
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  39. willistrong

    willistrong Filing Flight Plan

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    Nice aircraft!
     
  40. Flyvulcan

    Flyvulcan Filing Flight Plan

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    And a few more WL photos:

    F73DC8E4-3A28-4B00-92FD-277D4584D7D3.jpeg 53F97EB5-8247-4333-97D3-61A2E49A0483.jpeg F3CAAE60-09CB-46B0-BE6D-2548F8F88206.jpeg
     
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