What do I need to know about the Edgley Optica EA-7?

Once you have seen an Edgley Optica EA-7 before, you will never forget its iconic silhouette. This plane looks like it came straight out of a James Bond movie. Made in 1979, this British light aircraft still looks futuristic today. It was designed specifically for low-speed observation work as a cheaper alternative to helicopters.


John Edgley, the Optica designer, was a postgraduate student at the Imperial College of Science & Technology in London when he started working with the plane. The final aerodynamic design was completed in 1974 and was wind-tunnel tested in the following year. The first prototype was constructed in 1976 in London. It took about three years before the plane flew for the first time on December 14, 1979. The plane originally used a 160-hp Avco Lycoming O-320 engine but later switched to a stronger, 260-hp Textron Lycoming IO-540. Its five-bladed fixed-pitch ducted fan was so quiet that it was thought to be the world’s quietest powered aircraft.


The Edgley Optica EA-7 combines the visibility and the slow-flying capabilities of a helicopter. Its unique cockpit assembly ahead of the fan and engine gives an unobstructed 270-degree panoramic vision to the pilot and passengers. The cockpit also has a canopy design that is great for photography. The plane has a fixed and unfaired landing gear, with solid, maintenance-free suspension. Its all-metal airframe houses a 1.68 meter-wide cabin, capable of seating three people, including the pilot.


In terms of storage space, the Optica is only a little generous. You can load baggage and specialized observation equipment on the rear side of the plane and in the unrestricted floor area in between the pilot and passenger seats. The plane’s maximum takeoff weight is 2,899 lbs (1315 kg). Weighing at 2,090 lb (948 kg), the plane gives you about 800 lbs of allowable load.


Since the Optica was intended for surveillance purposes, you can’t expect it to fly at high speeds. Its engine allows it to reach a maximum of 132 mph (115 knots). The plane has a cruise speed of 81 mph (70 knots) and a stall speed of 67 mph (58 knots). It has a 250-L tank that gives the plane a 656-mile range at cruise speeds. The plane can stay in flight for up to 8 hours at this pace. However, flying at 110 knots gives it only 4 hours.


The ingenious design of the Optica makes it a flexible aircraft. It can be used for photography, surveillance patrols, traffic reporting, and even powerline inspection. The plane can perform many of a helicopter’s work without sacrificing economy and range. It also has some advantages over the chopper. It is estimated that fixed-wing aircraft cost only about a third or less to operate than a helicopter. It has a better range and endurance. And it is smoother to ride, ideal for photography or using sensors. It was a plane ahead of its time, and there are not many models in its class that can rival it in terms of versatility.


Today, the Optica creator John Edgley has taken more control over the planes. He and the original production engineers have been looking for buyers. There are a total of 22 Opticas made, and you might be the next owner. They believe that there is a place for the Optica in the modern world, where low-cost and low-speed surveillance planes are in-demand.


The Edgley Optica EA-7 may now be an old aircraft, but most of the units made are still airworthy. Just like them, you should keep yours in flying condition as well. Knisley Exhaust is here for you. Since 1974, our company has provided quality service and parts to our customers. Contact us, and let’s talk about your aircraft’s needs!