February 7, 2013
By Alton K. Marsh
Company owner Glen Gordon is realizing his dream of certifying the Sherpa 650T.
Perhaps you’ve seen it—a Piper Cub lookalike so big you have to use the landing gear as a ladder to reach the cockpit. After 25 years of research and development, hopes, and false starts, designer, and partner Byron Root and Sherpa company owner Glen Gordon are finally realizing their dream. Funding from a Chinese investor will support 24 months of certification for the eight-place Sherpa K650T powered by an 890-shaft-horsepower Garrett 331-5 engine, and the six-place 160-mile-per-hour Sherpa K500 powered by a 400-horsepower IO-720 Lycoming engine.
One of the $1.3 million 650T models will be delivered in six weeks to a customer, but it will be in the Experimental category. A second 650T airframe for the tube-and-fabric aircraft is complete, and will join another 650T model for certification trials. The secret to the new models, both the $475,000 model 500 and 650T, is an all-new wing. It is fatter than the original wing placed on the Sherpa demonstrator—now fitted with floats—20 years ago, and longer (44-plus feet) but faster and has 10 gas tanks. You could also make the case that it is slower, too.
The new wings are fatter and longer than the original demonstrator, and contain 10 gas tanks.
“Sleek good-looking wings that are so beautiful aren’t necessarily the fastest,” Gordon said.
“How slow is slow and how fast is fast? When we’re landing at 35 miles an hour, one of our problems is going to be that pilots are not used to landing so slow. They’ll have a hard time believing the airplane is still flying. We’re going to have a placard in the plane that says, ‘If you are landing at more than 40 miles an hour, you are still flying.’”
In China, a joint venture called Ying-Kou Sherpa has been formed as of Jan. 4, 2013. The company will manufacture the aircraft for customers in China. Aircraft sold in the United States will be built at the existing factory in a large hangar at Scappoose, Ore. Another group is interested in building the aircraft in Florida for military use.
Gordon and Root have waited a long time for this moment. Gordon, now 80, will continue to oversee operations in the United States. Root lost his eyesight a few years ago but not his vision for the big bushplane. Over the years numerous people have urged him to certify the airplane. “We’re taking care of that,” Gordon said.
Funding from a Chinese investor will support 24 months of certification for the eight-place Sherpa K650T, seen here, and the six-place Sherpa K500.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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