Manufacturer: Composite Industries Pty. Ltd., Australia
Type: all-composite single-seat light sportsplane
Powerplant: 1 x 50-55 hp 2-cylinder (inline) Rotax two-stroke piston engine
Significant date: 1984 (Eagle X-P1); 1988 (Eagle X-TS 100)
The Eagle X was a proof of concept aircraft built by Composite Industries Pty Ltd. of Western Australia, to gain knowledge on the use of composite materials — carbon fibre and kevlar — in the construction of light aircraft, and also to develop an aircraft that was relatively safe, intuitive and forgiving of inexperienced pilots. A canard configuration gives an aircraft an almost instant recovery from a stall situation. Composites Industries had perceived an interest in the farming and mining communities of Western Australia for a cheap, reliable, easy and safe to operate light aircraft that was able to minimise aviation bureaucracy, and wanted to take up the challenge. The Eagle X was conceived as a mode of transport for the wealthy businessman who would otherwise drive between Australian capital cities rather than be inconvenienced by airline timetables. In this sense the Eagle X was regarded by the Marketing Manager of Composite Industries as an aerial 'sports car'. However, it was also deemed suitable for low altitude activities such as mustering and area inspections where a moments inattention by the pilot would not cause a fatal stall.
The Eagle X-P1 (presumably for first prototype) project was begun in 1981. Although very similar in design to a Rutan Quickie, the Eagle X-P1 is regarded as Australia's first designed and built all-composite aircraft. The two assertions make sense, as the aircraft was initially designed by Deryck Graham and his son Neil, who then recruited John Roncz (who had worked on all Rutan aircraft to date) to manage the aerofoil design and to optimize the Eagle's aerodynamic efficiency. Being born in a family of miners, the Grahams recognized a need for a simple and economical aircraft to cope with Western Australia's vast distances. Due to the similarity of the Composite Industries' specified outcome with the Quickie's performance and handling characteristics, the Quickie concept was used by Roncz to incorporate the design parameters of the Eagle.
Development of the Eagle X-P1 took a period of some six years. It was a canard monoplane consisting of two parts (the fuselage and tail) made of kevlar and carbon fibre. The exterior of the aircraft was white gelcote with blue and red stripes and an eagle logo on the side of the body. It featured an ovoid cockpit with perspex cover and a single-seat inside. The engine in this one-of-a-kind aircraft was a 50-54 hp two-stroke Rotax. The Eagle was constructed at Cockburn, near Perth, and first flew in 1984. It was classified as an ultra light aircraft and therefore did not require the registration and maintenance regime of the conventional aircraft, thus benefiting from a lower cost structure. However, this concept did not take account of the reluctance of insurance companies to cover these 'unregistered' ultra light aircraft at the time of the introduction of the Eagle, and the prototype was later registered.
On 30 January 1985, during a test flight in "hot, gusty conditions" the Eagle lost height and speed, causing an out landing in a wheat field as the pilot was endeavouring to return to the airstrip at Cunderdin. The aircraft received substantial damage. Despite this setback, the Eagle XP-1 was judged the best in The Australian Financial Review - AMEV Finance Ltd. new product award in 1987. The prize of AUS $25,000 was presented to Composite Industries Ltd of Perth by the then Minister of Technology and Commerce, Senator Button at the Australian Financial Review New Product and Technology Expo at the Function Centre at Rose Hill race course in Sydney.
Although the primary goal of the Eagle X-P1 had been mainly to explore the general configuration planned for a larger two-seat version, there was interest within the company to continue production of the XP-1 aircraft if demand warranted. The aircraft was expected to sell for between AUS $25,000 and 30,000. Yet, as demand for the aircraft failed to materialize, the company moved away from the single seat concept to concentrate on the development of the Eagle X-TS 100 (or Eagle 150A), the two-seat, tricycle undercarriage version which Roncz also worked on. Like its predecessor it is of composite construction and retains the canard configuration that provides a safety barrier to an aerodynamic stall of the main wing. As it failed to meet the JAR-VLA requirements, the X-TS received a special category certificate of airworthiness from Australia’s CAA.
After 15 aircraft were built at Fremantle the Eagle 150B version was introduced. John Roncz was presented with the Prince’s Australian Medal for the design of the Eagle 150 by His Royal Highness Prince Philip at a ceremony in London in 2000. Composite Industries was eventually bought out by Malaysian interests and the Eagle Aircraft Company was formed to produce the Eagle 150B for a world market to fulfil the role as a light personal aircraft or as a basic trainer. The manufacturing rights are now owned by the Malaysian company CTRM (Composites Technology Research Malaysia). Also, a development of the aircraft as a UAV has been designated the Eagle ARV System. The first system of three aircraft and a ground station has been purchased by the Malaysian government.
As to the damaged Eagle X-P1 prototype, which was the only single-seat aircraft produced by Composite Industries Ltd., it was transferred in November 1987 from Rose Hill to Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, where it is still on display.
Population: 1 [L2056]
Many thanks to Walter van Tilborg for providing the stub for this article.