Onex Makes 1st Flight; Fits 99% Size Pilots

By Scott Spangler on February 2nd, 2011

Stopping by Sonex Aircraft the morning of  January 28, Mark Schaible greeted me with the news that its single-seater, the Onex, had made its first flight the day before. It passed its FAA inspection just after noon, added Sonex Founder John Monnett, and Jeremy Monnett lifted it from Runway 27 at Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport just after 3 p.m.

Sonex Onex First Flight

“It was a cold, gray day with low ceilings, and Onex was at the back of the hangar, so we just folded the wings and rolled it by the other airplanes,” said John. “It just takes two seconds to fold and unfold, and it was well worth the effort to build the mechanism.”

Clearly a proud father, John said the Onex project was conceived and led by son Jeremy, Sonex’s general manager and CEO. “Not that we all didn’t have some input, but he’s the main guy on it.” On the test flight, Jeremy said the Onex indicated 165 mph. Finishing the sentence, Mark said that they hadn’t yet calibrated the pitot/static system, so the figure, while close, was not official. Still, it’s  not bad for a VW powered single-seater, John said.

Sonex-6The Monnetts and I (that’s me in the middle, with Jeremy on the left and John on the right) have traded some good-natured ribbing  over the years about who can—and cannot—fly their airplanes. If you’re an FAA-standard human, like the Monnetts, you’re good to go. If you’re a 99th percentile human, at the far end of the height scale, you’re outa luck. That would be me: 6-foot-5, wearing jeans with a 38-inch inseam, and size 15 clodhoppers.

Invited to try on the Onex, I removed the cushions Jeremy needs to reach the peddles, and settled in comfortably. Something wasn’t right. The instrument panel was not digging into my knees! And I was able to apply full control inputs, even with said peddles in the (for me) their short-legged position.

Sonex-1Sliding my clodhoppers past the peddles into the 6-inch void between them and the firewall, my knees slid—without injury—under the panel, leaving about 2 inches of clearance. I was in La-Z-Boy recliner-land. Closing the canopy, I had a bit more than an inch of headroom, and there will be more when Sonex blows the new dome. Sonex is also building a second Onex prototype, this one with tricycle landing gear.

One of the great things about the Sonex family is that it doesn’t make promises about kit availability and prices until it is sure it can deliver on them.  With just one seat, the kit will cost less than the rounded $15K (not including the AeroVee engine) for the two seat Sonex, but they wouldn’t yet say how much less.  And I could fly it as a sport pilot. Not having to pay more than $100 a pop for a flight physical will but a lot of Onex flight time.

Owning an airplane has always been a dream, but on a freelancer’s income, I cannot afford to buy or build one that fits me. Depending on its final numbers, the Onex changes that. Until then, it’s nice to have the possibility of a dream within reach. – Scott Spangler

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