(6 pix + 1 video)
I understand it might be a bit of a stretch for many people to consider that a small single seat VW powered homebuilt airplane might play any part at all in saving General Aviation in America, but at the moment, I can't think of anything more likely. I feel this way for several reasons, starting with the fact that this little sport-pilot compliant airplane, which hasn't even had its first flight yet, is the closest thing I've seen to what I call a 'Grand Slam' homebuilt. If you haven't seen my post from a while back on the Grand Slam homebuilt, here are the 4 parts that make it up:
2) great performance but not excessively demanding to fly
3) relatively and realistically easy to build
4) electrifying looks
The one specific point I brought up previously when I mentioned the Onex as a contender for the four-run-homer was whether its looks could be classified as 'electrifying'. Well, now that I've seen it in person, both at the Open House at their facility at Oshkosh on the day before OSH10 started, and at their booth during Oshkosh, I can say that the Onex definitely looks potentially low-voltage electrfying. True, I wouldn't call it full on electrifying like the 1970's BD-5, but the Onex appears to be so far down the road to fulfilling the other three elements of the grand slam that I gotta think this little cutie is gonna be the closest we've ever been to hitting it out of the park with the bases loaded.
Onex reveal at the Sonex open house on Sunday July 25, 2010
The basic design philosophy of the Onex is to take all the great simplification ideas that John Monnett and crew have engineered into the Sonex family of airplanes, and apply them to a single seater intended to be as affordable as possible. The best news from my perspective is that the guys didn't make it as absolutely tiny as they could, and they aren't trying to get it to fly on the smallest engine available. You could insert some thoughts on the Moni here if you want to. However, by making the Onex a size that is both roomy and comfortable, and by putting an engine on the nose that they've proven can fly two people around quite nicely in a Sonex or Waiex, they are on the brink of offering an airplane that fits real people and will have some very sharp performance. It was obvious when looking in the cockpit that this little airplane has a lot of room inside.
The more you study the lines on the airplane, the more you see how everything falls into just the right spot. If you want both simple-to-build and visually pleasing (a real rare combo in homebuilt airplanes), then I think you'll be pleased with the way this airplane looks. And, for those who've struggled a bit with the lines of the Sonex and Waiex airplanes, I think you'll find that the Onex is able to sidestep any weirdness and go straight to the head of the class. First, by being a much narrower fuselage, you don't get that sharp break in the slab sides as they work their way past the cockpit. And second, the cowling has a softer shape in the area where the Sonex cowl can be a little, shall we say, 'different'... plus having the heads of the cylinder banks push out thru the cowling sides not only narrows the cowling a bit, but it's one of the coolest nods to the classic cowl of the J-3 Cub ever!
After you get past the simple fact that this is a great looking airplane that obviously wouldn't be complex to build, you can move on to some other really cool aspects of the Onex. The folding wings specifically. The idea was to create a folded size that would allow for easy trailering and easy storage in a normal sized garage. With the wings folded, it's just a tad over 8' wide, and it's just under 7' tall. all while still giving the airplane 78 sq ft of wing area total, which is enuf to keep the slow end of the speed range from being too hot. Even cooler than all that is the fact that it literally takes about 5 seconds to fold a wing panel. They've very cleverly designed the mechanism to not require any kind of disconnecting of the control linkages to be able to accomplish the fold. You unlock the wing. You fold the wing up!
There are little 'paddles' that make contact with each other wing the wing is lowered into position as can be seen here forward of the main spar. This not only greatly simplifies the folding operation, but it also greatly reduces the risk of not having everything properly connected before flight. If this system works like it seems it will, it's gonna be awesome. They also say that the wing is stressed to +6 g's and -3 g's at the gross weight of 850 pounds. That works out to a useful load of 310 pounds at the 540 pound empty weight. An 850 pound airplane with 80 Volkswagen horses up front and stressed to +6 / -3 seems to = FUN, FUN, FUN!
So, maybe I've got you convinced that the Onex shows a lot of promise as a reasonably easy to build, very attractive, affordable and fun flying homebuilt, but you might not be sold on it saving general aviation. Here's why I think it can. We need lots more people interested in becoming pilots. We need airports with more flying activity. We need a general public that sees a lot of people having good, clean, safe fun in the sky. If we could populate the airports of the US with several thousand Onex airplanes in the next few years, we could really begin to change the ground floor of General Aviation. And the bottom line is that you can't have a second floor, or a top floor, without a ground floor.
The Onex on display at the Sonex booth at OSH10. Plexiglas canopy not yet installed.
I got this picture of the Onex on display at the Sonex booth without a lot of people around it, but you can tell by the grass that it had been getting a lot of attention. And that pic above at the open house with the crowd around gives you a good idea of the response so far. This really is the 'one' airplane that just might change the game entirely.
There's a lot more to say about this project, and I plan on watching it very closely. I'll be sharing the facts of its progress, and plenty of opinions too. Obviously, it needs to fly before we can really get excited about it, but that should happen soon. And then, the Sonex crew will work out all the bugs and get the kit components all nailed down. It's still looking like a guy who really watches the expenses might be able to get a Onex in the air under $20,000... and the average guy will likely come in right about at 20K. All things considered, that's pretty amazing. I want one!
Nice AVweb video with Jeremy Monnett explaining the details of the Onex.