Adam A500

Customer deliveries have begun!

There has always been some debate about the justification for piston twins. True, the second engine may get you home if one mill quits, but standard asymmetric-thrust multis haven’t exactly enjoyed a sterling safety record. In too many instances, directional control is so tenuous and single-engine performance so marginal that a safe landing on one engine demands that the pilot be flying a perfect airplane and be doing absolutely everything right.

Rick Adam’s A500 is the first corporate piston twin to be certified in 20 years, and in case you hadn’t noticed, it doesn’t employ asymmetric thrust. The airplane’s inline engine configuration breaks with tradition and sets the A500 apart from the vast majority of what has come before. Yes, there was the near-500 mph, experimental, WWII German Dornier 335 fighter, developed too late to enter the war; the semi-successful family of Cessna model 336/337 Skymasters (now you know where the Skymasters’ model numbers come from); Burt Rutan’s Defiant and round-the-world Voyager; and a few other less notable attempts at huff ’n puff designs.

But twins have traditionally utilized asymmetric thrust, mounting their engines on the wings to improve crashworthiness, ease fuel delivery and isolate noise and vibration from the cabin. The last pressurized, piston corporate twin of any description that was granted a type certificate from the FAA was the Piper Mojave, essentially a piston-powered Cheyenne I.

So what makes George F. “Rick” Adam Jr. think he can produce and sell a pressurized multi in a 21st-century general-aviation market that’s producing only about a fifth of the units it was building when the type disappeared? The Cessna 340/414/421, Beech Duke/P-Baron and Piper Mojave/Aerostar 700P all expired in the mid-1980s, not because there were any glaring deficits in the designs, but because the market had dwindled to a precious few. Beech sold only 16 Dukes in the last year of production, and Cessna delivered a mere 18 Chancellors and Golden Eagles in all of model year 1985. What has changed in 20 years?