Lionheart began as the personal, passion-driven project of Larry French. Stemming from his admiration of the vintage Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing, Larry set himself on a journey to recreate the 1930’s era legend by using modern aircraft production techniques. The maiden flight was on July 27, 1997. Just a few days later Lionheart made its public debut at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Within 9 months five kits were sold. A dream-turned-reality coincidentally seated Mr. French firmly in the owner’s seat of a brand new company: Griffon Aerospace.
Lionheart is a Cabin Class aircraft measuring about 20 feet from firewall to rudder. Due to the compact shape of the stagger wing, it can be constructed in a relatively small space. Interior cabin volume and seating is similar to a Piper Malibu, but wider at the shoulders. The primary structure is made of high-temperature carbon fiber composite molded in precision production tooling. Since the composite build offers so much rigidity Griffon was able to forgo wing uprights, which results in a very slick and eye-catching overall shape. The heartbeat comes from the well-proven and powerful Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Jr. radial engine.
Pilot and passengers enter the cabin via a single-split door between the mid and rear seats, on the left side of the fuselage (ala Piper Malibu and Beech Staggerwing). A small aisle is between the first two rows of seats giving easy access to the pilot and co-pilot seats. Lionheart can carry 6 full size, FAA 170 lbs. passengers and is designed with a 5200 lbs. gross weight at +6,-3 G limit loads. Following structural testing, the gross weight was increased for +4.4,-2.2 G limit loads (utility category). With an estimated empty weight of 3100 to 3300 lbs., Lionheart has a payload of about 2000 lbs. Just about right for the wife and kids … plus a generous 180 gallons of fuel. Lionheart has a total range of about 1450 nm and mid-50 knot stall speed.
Controls are dual sticks for pilot and co-pilot. Ailerons and elevator are pushrod actuated while the rudder is cable controlled. The four ailerons and flaps of the upper and lower wings are all interconnected at the wing root via cables. With the exception of landing gear provisions, the upper and lower wings are identical in shape and size.
Lionheart utilizes a fully retractable tail dragger landing gear. Gas charged suspension elements provide smooth and comfortable taxi, take-off, and landing. Electro-hydraulic actuators are used to retract the landing gear after take-off.
Lionheart is currently not in production.