Polish engineering firm Metal Master is preparing its second production-conforming Flaris LAR-1 flight-test aircraft (registration SP-YLF) for its first flight as the company set its sights on securing Polish certification for the five-seat, personal jet in the first half of 2023.
“We are conducting ground tests now and hope to get the aircraft airborne in the coming weeks,” said Metal Master co-founder Rafal Ladzinski.
The first prototype, registered as SP-YLE, has logged more than 220 sorties since the flight-test campaign began in April 2019 from the company’s test center in Zielona Gora Airport in western Poland. Evaluations have focused mainly on systems, including its retractable landing gear, hydraulics, Garmin G600TXi flight deck, autopilot, and autothrottle, according to Ladzinski.
The carbon-fiber LAR-1, which is powered by a single Williams FJ33-5A turbofan, has also hit some notable performance milestones. This includes reaching a climb rate of 6,000 fpm, an economic cruise speed of 325 knots (600 km/h), and a stall speed of 59 knots, which Ladzinski said is equivalent to a light piston single.
The trials have also confirmed the LAR-1’s “exceptional STOL characteristics,” with the aircraft achieving takeoff in less than 500 feet (152 meters) and landing in less than 400 feet, he added.
Aircraft SP-YLE will begin testing on grass airstrips in the fourth quarter, with similar STOL performance anticipated. “The ability to take off and land on grass airfields will give the LAR-1 so much operational flexibility and open up the market to a broad customer base,” said Ladzinski.
Podgorzyn-headquartered Metal Master has also produced seven ground-test articles that are being used to evaluate the LAR-1’s engines, hydraulics, landing gear, radio navigation, and electrical de-icing systems.
Ladzinski said the Covid-19 pandemic put the brakes on the program in 2020 and 2021 due to the global lockdowns and workplace restrictions. Although the LAR-1 flight-test campaign has resumed, he suggested the knock-on effect of Covid is still being felt across the supply chain.
“It’s been a crazy two years,” Ladzinski explained. “Covid interruptions to the supply chain saw several subcontractors lose their production capacity due to months of delays in the allocation of microprocessors. The deliveries of valves and hydraulic pumps were extended by several months, and our prepreg suppliers were hit with production problems forcing us to expand our list of contractors.”
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has also exacerbated the pain by forcing up the price of high-alloy steel and aluminum, Ladzinski continued. “This has forced us to develop our own products, which thankfully we are now doing successfully.”
Certification of the LAR-1 is being sought initially under the Polish Civil Aviation Authority's S-1 experimental aircraft designation, with certification expected by mid-2023. Metal Master will then pursue concurrent EASA and FAA validation, although there is no timeframe for these approvals. “As we are building the aircraft to a high standard, we hope this process won’t take too long,” said Ladzinski. “The U.S. is a huge market for the LAR-1, so it makes sense to engage both [certification] agencies at the same time.”
Owner-pilots are expected to make up the bulk of LAR 1 customers, but Metal Master is also attracting attention from air-taxi companies and specialist operators for use as a surveillance and patrol platform. “On a full tank of fuel, the LAR-1 has a flight duration of more than eight hours,” Ladzinski noted.
As well as the STOL and time-to-climb performance, the LAR-1 also boasts a host of “impressive characteristics,” he added. These include low direct operating costs—including fuel, maintenance, and insurance—of $450 per hour; a projected 1,620-nm (3,000-km) range; 450-knot cruise speed; and 3,300-pound (1,500 kg) mtow.
The LAR-1’s price tag has yet to be confirmed, but Ladzinski expects it to cost less than $3 million.