The foothold is about at the waist of my 5-foot-10 frame, and for someone like me, with long legs and not great flexibility, it was a bit of a challenge to get my foot on the step. In the fuselage, you step on a shelf, taking care not to bump any knobs on the instrument panel.
In the Boomerang, the pilot-in-command sits in the right seat. This atypical arrangement enables the pilot to be the last one into the cockpit—therefore the one to shut and latch the door. It also affords the pilot better visibility, since the boom is on the other side.
As the sun was rising above the desert, we took off on Runway 8 and turned northwest, climbing slowly up to 14,500 feet, then leveling off. Once Clements trimmed the aircraft for cruise power, he turned the controls over to me.
The side stick is on the left, just in front of the armrest. The controls are incredibly light, which took me a while to get used to. The smallest movement resulted in a change. I had no problem keeping the wings level, but I struggled with the pitch, chasing the digital altimeter more than I’d like to admit. In fact, Clements suggested holding the stick with just two fingers instead of gripping it with my entire hand.
Something else that was unusual: There were no rudder pedals in front of me. The only rudder pedals are on the right side.
Once I became comfortable with the controls, we did the same maneuver that Coleman and I had done in the Baron to demonstrate what makes the Boomerang unique. Clements brought the left engine to idle, and I eased the nose up to hold altitude. And that was it. Instead of pulling to the left and trying to flip over, the airplane flew straight.
To prove he wasn’t adding in any rudder, Clements stomped on the floor and said, “Look, my feet aren’t on the rudders.” In fact, with the stick all the way back, which in most airplanes would lead to a stall, I was able to roll left or right without a problem, as well as maintain heading and a safe airspeed. I had no fear that the airplane would roll inverted, or lose altitude. Flying with either engine idled made no discernible difference in performance: The Boomerang just keeps flying.
As we neared Scappoose, Clements took the controls. When we touched down and taxied in, a crowd led by Oregon Aero President Mike Dennis met us. Clements is used to that kind of reception whenever he flies the Boomerang, which is about once a month. “It gets attention wherever you go,” he says. “There’s no hiding it.”
Rutan has said that this is the one general aviation aircraft he designed that he’d like to go into production. “It’s the most significant general aviation airplane I’ve ever done,” he says. “I want to keep the concept alive by keeping my own airplane flying.”
Dale Johnson, vice president of Paragon Aircraft Corporation in Salem, Oregon, is part of a group working to develop a straight-wing, turboprop version of the aircraft. Preliminary calculations show that at a cruise speed close to 370 mph, it would have a range of 2,000 to 2,300 miles. The only thing holding the group back is raising the necessary funding to get a prototype built and to undertake the costly Federal Aviation Administration certification process.