Interview: Brian Harris on the Composite Approach Build Program


We asked Brian Harris, Owner & Technical Director of Composite Approach, home to one of our Builder Assist Programs, about what it is like to build an EVO.

Tell us a little about your background with Evolution.

Brian: I have been building Lancair products for 20 years and have been involved with the Evolution project since its inception. We are currently building our 26th Evolution and have worked hard to create a very predictable and fun process while continuing to strive for the highest possible level of quality and ultimate reliability.

Can you give us a brief overview of what building an airplane looks like?

Brian: Building an airplane can be and should be, one of the most enjoyable and unique experiences that a person could embark on. At Composite Approach, we strive to make the entire experience a smooth, predictable and fun process. Similar to a general contractor on a custom home, we will manage every detail of the project from start to finish. We work with the owner through all decisions that need to be made to ensure that the finished product is on time, on budget, and is exactly what they were hoping for.

What are the major decisions owners need to make during the build process?

Brian: Some of the major decisions include engine choice, paint scheme, interior materials and colors, and various options that can improve safety or customize the aircraft for a specific mission.

What happens after the aircraft is built?

Brian: We handle all of the FAA paperwork and inspections, as well as working the aircraft through its test flight phase with the group of test pilots. The test flight phase is a ton of fun… it is like being on the mechanic crew for a race car- every detail of the aircraft is scrutinized by the pilots and the plane is “tuned” to perfection aerodynamically, including the engine, autopilot, and avionics performance. The plane is taken through rigors and flight conditions that it will probably never see again, giving you confidence that no-matter what you later encounter you know that your plane has “been there and done that” as it was designed to do. The test flight phase is, no-doubt, the icing on the cake for us in the build process.

What kind of commitment is needed from the owner throughout the build program?

Brian: The owners’ involvement in the project is flexible, but we believe that building an airplane should be an enjoyable experience and not just a means-to-an-end. Our “boiler plate” request to meet all of the FAA requirements is 4-5 weeks of time hanging out in beautiful Central Oregon and working on your airplane. The typical schedule is 10 days at the beginning, 5 days in month 2 or 3, 5 days in month 4 or 5, and 10 days at the end to finish the plane. Then we get final FAA approval and watch it fly! We will adjust the time to fit whatever the owner’s schedule will accommodate and we work with you, side by side, and teach you as much as possible about the airplane through out the process.

What is the most common concern expressed by owners at the beginning of the program?

Brian: Most owners are hesitant about this process when they start, but by the end of the first trip are hooked. By being involved in the project you will fully understand all the planes systems, aiding in your decision-making process in the air, and making you a better and safer pilot.