Kalispell resident John McGinnis has a bold vision of what the personal aircraft could and should be.
And he and his team of family, friends, volunteers and partners continue to build a working prototype of his experimental Synergy aircraft.
A crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.com has gotten 664 people to pledge a total of $78,913 for the project as of Thursday morning.
Pledges range from as little as $1 or $5 to help buy gas to more than $10,000.
With an initial goal of raising $65,000 met, a new informal goal is to raise $165,000 by the campaign’s end Monday, June 4.
“If nothing goes wrong, that amount of money would probably get us to flight test,” McGinnis said of the unique airplane taking shape in his dad’s garage in Evergreen.
Synergy promises to be a lightweight composite aircraft with room for five, all of the modern amenities and unprecedented fuel economy.
The goal is fast, fun, quiet, comfortable and affordable air transportation with greater range and an ability to land at safer, slower speeds on local airfields.
The design has drawn attention from around the world for the role it could play in a general aviation industry where the average airplane, as described by McGinnis, is 33 years old as well as noisy, cramped, expensive, inefficient and reliant on low-lead aviation gas.
The general aviation industry is largely stuck in the past, and with its older planes it is a lot like Cuba’s car market, McGinnis said.
“You go to the airport and you’ve got a 1956 Cessna that looks awesome, but it’s a 1956.”
Synergy incorporates a unique “double box tail” to boost stability and reduce drag.
It includes a number of other streamlining improvements and a power drag reduction system that takes “sticky air” from parts of the wings and fuselage to further reduce drag and feed an efficient turbocharged diesel engine at the rear of the plane.
“We’re twice as fast, we’re three times as fuel efficient as the average plane with the same engine,” McGinnis said.
“Now take and add to that, I’m not using their engine, I’m using an engine that’s 40 percent more efficient than theirs. Now you’re getting what we’re talking about here.”
The plane also will feature the latest in avionics, including a push-button system to automatically fly to land at the nearest and safest runway.
McGinnis is trying to put together a world-class business team to eventually bring the Synergy aircraft to the kit market, where it could be assembled with low-cost automotive engines, the turbocharged diesel engine or electric hybrid engines. That kit market supplies about half of the new planes in the general aviation industry, he said.
“Where this goes is we need to plan to make thousands of them,” McGinnis said of Synergy. “Right now we’re just trying to get the first one up in the air.”
Growing up, McGinnis was inspired by experimental aircraft such as the human-powered planes built by Paul MacCready in the 1970s and the Voyager built by Burt Rutan in the 1980s. Rutan’s was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.
“When I was a kid there was stuff like this going on and I thought it was too late for me,” McGinnis said. “I was inspired by that. I never thought I would be a part of it, let alone the driving force behind something like that.”
The goal is to get the Synergy prototype built and in the air this year and then debut it at AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh, Wis. The annual event is put on every summer by the Experimental Aircraft Association.
For more information on the fundraising campaign, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/launchsynergy/synergy-aircraft-project.
For more information on Synergy, visit www.synergyaircraft.com/index.html.
Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detail of the new engine with the model of the Synergy Aircraft in the background. The engine runs on diesel fuel rather than Aviation fuel.