Hughes?s dream machine passes test with flying colours

By DAWN COHEN

HOWARD HUGHES'S dream for Ballina was tested yesterday morning.

It passed with flying colours.

Mr Hughes, head of Hughes Engineering, a Ballina aircraft manufacturer, took Australia's first low-wing small plane on its first test flight at Byron-Ballina Gateway Airport. The burgundy and beige four-seater soared faultlessly.

"I wasn't worried about it flying," said Mr Hughes, who spent two-and-a-half years building the sleek SP2000, and 10 years dreaming about it.

"We put in a small engine to keep fuel costs down, and made it aerodynamically clean to maintain high speeds.

"But you can plan all you like, you'll never know what you'll find until you are up there."

Mr Hughes found that, with a speed of 200km/h eating up only 18 litres of fuel, the SP 2000 will outperform other light planes.

It will take you around Australia, the 57-year-old said, where its predecessors would take you around NSW.

The family business built the fully-computerised craft with only eight people, compared with more than 100 used by most overseas companies.

Mr Hughes has been building planes for 20 years, but the name, he said, is coincidence.

"I don't think my parents knew about the other Howard Hughes," he said.

If you fancy the rather attractive craft, called Speed, for your backyard it will set you back about $80,000 for a self-assembly kit.

"It's not harder than building a model aeroplane," said Mr Hughes.

"It would take a year of leisure time."



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