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'Synergy' Project Revealed

By Ric Reynolds, News Editor, EAA 642317

Unveiled Friday, April 30, at the CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium, the double-box tailed Synergy aircraft is a potential breakthrough in aircraft design.
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April 29, 2011 — It’s not very often that a true breakthrough in aircraft design comes along, but John McGinnis, EAA 797858, is quietly confident he has one. McGinnis, of Kalispell, Montana, unveiled his new aircraft design, Synergy, at the fifth annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium (EAS V), which started today and runs through tomorrow, April 30, in Santa Rosa, California. He provided EAA an opportunity to preview the project, which McGinnis believes will achieve performance capable of winning the $1.65 million NASA/CAFE Green Flight Challenge scheduled for this July. We think it looks really cool, too!

Describing it as half futuristic sailplane-half fighter jet, McGinnis designed the roomy five-to seven-place Synergy after studying nearly 80 years of aeronautical research by such aviation luminaries as August Raspet, Fabio Goldschmied, John Roncz, Burt Rutan, Paul MacCready, and Bruce Carmichael.

The “Synergy” name derives from the idea that the aircraft synergizes six proven aeronautical principles into a single, extremely efficient package. They are:

  1. Laminar flow
  2. Non-planar configuration
  3. Wake-immersed propulsion
  4. Open thermodynamic cycle
  5. Pressure thrust
  6. Optimum volumetric displacement waveform

Synergy’s signature shape, revealed for the first time here and on Oshkosh365, features an innovative “double box tail” - as opposed to a box wing, which have been known to have safety issues. The double box tail creates extremely low induced drag - described by McGinnis as the “glider-like efficiency of a 46-foot wingspan packed into a much stronger 32-foot package.”

Like the canard designs that inspired its drag reduction priorities, Synergy is designed to be incapable of unintentional stalls and won’t spin in computer simulation, he added.

McGinnis built a 1/4-scale electric-powered technology demonstrator R/C model that successfully flew for the first time in 2007. He says the full-scale technology demonstrator will achieve higher speeds and greater fuel efficiency per horsepower than any comparably spacious airplane.

Synergy is also noteworthy because it’s the first aircraft designed around the DeltaHawk engine, a turbocharged, liquid-cooled, 200-hp diesel currently undergoing FAA certification at the company’s headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin. McGinnis says he was among the first buyers of the experimental powerplant.

A modular design means economical construction as a future kit aircraft should be possible, and this is part of the long term plan for Synergy.

More immediately, McGinnis has entered Synergy into the $1.65 million NASA/CAFE Green Flight Challenge scheduled for this July 11-17 in Santa Rosa, California, and hopes to make a follow-up flight to AirVenture Oshkosh later in the month. He has been building the full-size, proof-of-concept technology demonstrator over the past two years, greatly aided by 3-D modeling capabilities at his design firm, mc squared design.

However, with less than three months to go, time is running out. “Synergy is a true grassroots effort, being funded by friends, family, and the generosity of strangers,” McGinnis said, and sharing the expensive part of his workload has been difficult. Although competing in the GFC remains his top priority, he has always considered it “a bonus of excellent timing,” as getting to Oshkosh was the original goal. “We’re committed to this as a critical technology demonstration for general aviation, prize incentive or not,” McGinnis said.

 McGinnis is anxious not to over-hype his project and understands that many people will be skeptical until a full-size aircraft has actually flown and demonstrated its performance, which he will not make claims about. He has openly shared many of his ideas via Internet message boards in Oshkosh365, which have stimulated vigorous discussion. One consistent theme of feedback is to commend John’s spirit and wish him well in his endeavors, with many appreciating the challenges involved in attempting to raise the bar of aeronautical performance.

Synergy specifications
Overall Length: 21 feet
Wing Span: 32 feet
Wing Area: 144.6 square feet
Gross weight: > 3,100 pounds
Empty weight: < 1,650 pounds
Gross in-flight wing loading: 23.2 lbs/sq. ft.
Power: 200-hp two-stroke turbo/super diesel Delta Hawk
Cabin Width, interior: 56 inches
Gear: Tricycle, retractable
Minimum flight speed: <55 KIAS (dirty)
Range: >1,500 nautical miles w/std reserve


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