Designed and first flown in 1979 by British designer Edgley, the Edgley Optica is a beautiful but nearly extinct aircraft. The Optica was produced in limited quantities in the 1980’s and targeted the gap in the aviation market for low cost, fixed-wing observation aircraft. The idea was to replace helicopters in activities such as: aerial photography, pipeline patrol, search and rescue missions and policing areas where there is no need for hover and land capabilities.
As you can see the look of the Edgley Optica takes some getting used to, it has the appearance of an huge eyeball fixed to the end of a airplane. There appears to be a giant fan behind the cockpit, which joins the helicopter-type cockpit to the rest of the aircraft and acts as a fuselage and main spar. This ducted fan design allows the engine thrust to be closer to the aerodynamic thrust line which gives better stability during power changes. In addition, it protects the propeller from ground strikes, it provides better performance at low speeds and it is quieter than conventional propeller planes.
Will the Aviation Market Allow this Aircraft to Get off the Ground
Despite its lofty ambitions and futuristic look and characteristics, the Edgley Optica aircraft has been sidelined and searching for backing for decades by John Edgley, its creator. The main reason the initial production and release failed is due to the fatal crash of the very first aircraft released to the Hamstead Police Department. Immediately, financial backing was withdrawn and due to more troubling events (e.g. a fire attributed to arson destroyed 8 completed aircraft) temporarily sidelined.
Although the design is unorthodox, the flight qualities are ordinary and the aircraft’s instrumentation is all standard. The flight controls are the normal stick and rudder. Handling is no different than any other aircraft. The difficult adjustment to make is getting used to the panoramic view. Another aspect of the Optica is its slow cruise speed can fool some pilots inot thinking that they are flying too slowly.
Now once again in 2015 the Optica is in play at the Paris Air Show and its creator John Edgley is trying to position his aircraft back into production. He needs to find a large sponsor or a buyer with veryt deep pockets. Could this aircraft eventually replace the helicopter? Without a miracle or financial backing for the Optica, we may never know.