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The Edgley EA-7 Optica was a British light aircraft designed for observation work, intended as a low-cost alternative to helicopters.
The Optica, designed by John Edgley and built by Brooklands Aerospace, had an unusual configuration with a fully glazed forward cabin seating three across, reminiscent of an Alouette helicopter. Behind it was situated a Lycoming flat-six engine powering a ducted fan, twin boom cantilever tailplane with twin rudders and a high-mounted single elevator. The fixed tricycle undercarriage had the nosewheel offset to the left. The wings were unswept and untapered, and the aircraft was of a fairly standard all-metal construction with stressed aluminium skin. The aircraft's distinctive appearance led to it being known as the "bug-eye" in some popular reports.
It first flew on 14 December 1979, powered by a 150 hp (112 kW) Lycoming O-320 engine and flown by the chief pilot of the Cranfield College of Aeronautics. The Optica, now powered by a more powerful Lycoming O-540, entered production in 1983, achieving certification on 8 February 1985. A crash of police Optica G-KATY on 15 May 1985 killed two members of the Hampshire Constabulary. The cause was suspected to be a stall: insufficient airspeed during a turn causing instability. The reason for the low speed was never established. This led to the bankruptcy of Edgley, with Optica Industries being formed in October 1985 to continue production and 25 were built before a fire caused by arson destroyed the factory and all but one flying Optica. The company was reformed again as Brooklands Aircraft, and the Optica returned to production, production ceasing in March 1990, when Brooklands Aircraft went bankrupt.
An example featured in the 1989 movie Slipstream.
There was a grounding order by the FAA due to cracks developed in the wing spars but this is not in force as there are two examples flying in the U.S. and two flying in Australia. There are a further two in storage in the UK.
The Design of the Optica has now been bought by John Edgley once more (along with the design for the FLS Sprint 160). Edgley hopes to put both types into production and further to that goal the Optica 300 Series s/n 021 G-BOPO is being restored as a UK type demonstrator.