By David Brown
Many years ago, I was involved in production testing of a jet trainer in the UK. Initially we had unpressurized jets and used to climb to 30,000 feet for our production testing as a matter of course. With the exuberance of youth, we ignored the occasional sinus problems, the bends, fatigue, and other such inconveniences, while accepting the rock-hard cushions of the Martin-Baker ejection seats as part of the cost of doing business. A couple of years later, we had progressed to a pressurized version of the same jet, as by now the powers-that-be had realized that the Royal Air Force CFIs were having problems with the day-after-day effects of climbing to high altitude two or more times a day without the benefits of pressurization. From our flight-test point of view, we soon realized that life was much better in a pressurized aircraft.
Fast forward a decade or two, and I was ferrying a military turboprop trainer west across the USA, part of a two-ship formation. Again we were unpressurized, and at 24,000 feet, I was monitoring my oxygen blinker rhythmically opening and closing. Occasionally, I would have to give control to my colleague in the other cockpit, unclip my military-style oxygen mask, blow my nose, eat a sandwich, take a sip of water, etc. before clipping the mask back on. Again, we were on the same Martin-Baker ejection seats, and again the cushions were rock hard after a couple of hours droning west over Texas and the Arizona desert.
I liked the speed, as we were covering the ground at a true airspeed of almost 300 knots, better than doing the trip at low altitude in a general aviation aircraft with TAS of just over a hundred knots, as I was doing on weekends. But the discomfort of mask, bonedome, seat, harness, and parachute straps was a different matter
“One day,” I said over the intercom, “We will be able to do this trip in pressurized luxury and comfort.”
“But not today,” came the answer from our imperturbable test pilot in the front cockpit. A moment later, he resumed humming Willie Nelson’s “ …on the Road again…”
I have news for the world. That day has arrived with the introduction of the pressurized Evolution.
I first saw the Turbine Evolution at Reno last September when it was used as the pace plane for the Sport Racing class. I was impressed by the speed and intrigued by the fact that this was a kit-built plane.
In February, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Evolution Aircraft’s President, Kevin Eldredge, at Cable Airport in Southern California, get the inside story of the Turbine Evolution, and take a short flight in between the storms battering Southern California.