Designer Nick Otterback notes that, “The MK2 tail was designed because the Lightning has evolved from the go-fast machine we first conceived around a campfire, to the refined ASTM-compliant cross country ship that is it today, nearly a decade later.” He has written a plain-talking white paper about the experience and the philosophy behind the first big structural change in the Lightning’s history.
So, with the ASTM compliant Arion Lightning on its way to Oshkosh, the company planned this White Paper as a heads-up for the press, so the background and physics would be ready to understand by the layman.
The Lightning didn’t need to change much, and the new tail bolts right up to existing mounts. Otterback said, “We wanted to… make it easier for the homebuilder and the production crew; and we could keep costs down for everybody. The main spars, close-out spars, attach points, hinges, bell-cranks, and elevators remain the same.” The result: “The new tail fitted up to the fuselage with no issues whatsoever.”
The MK2 tail is much larger in size and has significantly less elevator throw for the same stick movement. This gives the pilot much more positive feedback during rotation; the stick feels heavier during acceleration. As the stick is pulled back to rotate, the nose comes up slower, better matching the stick movement. Once in the air and accelerating, the tail forces build and make the stick feel solid.
Was it worth improving upon? Yes, most definitely. Otterback says, “To think one’s airplane design is perfect is a personality flaw; everything can be better, even by the smallest amounts.”
New engines: Though it won’t be shown at Oshkosh, here is a sneak view (hi-res attached) of some of what’s to come: a six-cylinder ULPower 390 in a customer’s Lightning. And there’s a new demonstrator in the works, with a Lycoming O-320 – and it will be seen in Oshkosh, Exhibit Space 135.