A Raptor For the Restuvus

I doubt there are many pilots who wouldn't love to own and fly an F-22 Raptor. It's supremely powerful, maneuverable, fast...a real "mach 2 with your hair on fire" kind of machine. Sadly, as a multi-million dollar jet with classified systems, few of us are likely to ever so much as touch one. There's a consolation prize though. Some ingenuitive people have created a Raptor for the restuvus.

Raptor Aircraft promises that their design will carry 5 people in comfort at 230 KTAS burning 7 gph of Jet A in an Audi 3.0L V6 turbo diesel. It may not be an F-22, but it sure sounds like an impressive airplane.

With performance numbers like that, I'm not surprised to see that it's a Rutan-inspired design. Sleek, composite airframe, pusher configuration, large rear wing with a canard up front. When I first wrote about the Cobalt Co50 I discussed some of the advantages of this design. Several past aircraft with this configuration failed to find long-term viability, but thanks to new building techniques I think we're going to see more and more of them. On the market right now you have the Cozy, the Velocity (single engine and twin models), and the Cobalt Valkyrie that I just mentioned. Even the Synergy seems to be at least inspired by some of these design ideas.

The Raptor is unique among these designs because it's using an automotive engine and will run on diesel or jet fuel. In a world where 100LL is getting more expensive and less popular, a viable diesel aircraft is a huge plus. It also has a very unique price. They're taking refundable deposits of just $2,000 and claim that you'll be able to complete the aircraft (including engine, avionics, paint, and interior) for just $130,000. That sounds like a lot at first, but it's less than half the cost of a factory new C-172 these days. And they claim that this aircraft will carry more, further, at nearly twice the speed, for less fuel burn than that C-172. (Though they they focus their comparisons on SR22 on their website.)

I hate to say it, but I'm skeptical. Yes, it'll be an experimental aircraft, which always gets you more advanced technology for much less money. However, a top-of-the-line Velocity could easily cost more than that. The Cobalt Valkyrie sure will. They seem to have done a lot of extensive computer modeling, but this picture from their blog makes it look like they're only getting started on actual construction. Every new aircraft I've watched for the last decade has ended up taking longer and costing more than planned.

I hope that's not completely the case here. I hope things go well for Raptor Aircraft and that they are able to deliver on their promises. If their aircraft delivers the performance they're expecting it'll be a bargain at a price much higher than $130,000. I hope it doesn't take long for the rest of us to get our hands on these Raptors.