Anyone that has seen the James Bond movie “Octopussy” has seen the BD-5J microjet in action but what is this tiny jet and who designed it?
The BD-5J microjet oddly enough began life as a propeller driven aircraft and was designed by Jim Bede. Bede is often credited with the creation of the modern kitplane market and has designed well over a dozen aircraft since the 1960s. The BD-1 (which later became the AA-1 Yankee) and the BD-4 high-wing aircraft (600 kits sold) are just two of his innovative designs.
Construction of the prototype was started in late 1970 and the Micro BD-5 was considered a radical design. It was an extremely small one-seat design that had the pilot sitting in a semi-reclined position under a large fighter-like plexiglas canopy. The engine compartment was located just behind the pilot and used a two-cylinder air-cooled 40 hp engine driving a pusher propeller.
For improved performance the aircraft featured both a V-tail and retractable landing gear in order to reduce drag. Spoilers were added to the wing in order to improve deceleration for landing. (This was apparently the first application of spoilers on a light aircraft.)
In addition to being easy to fly, the BD-5 was also intended to be easy to build and own. The fuselage was constructed primarily from fiberglass panels over an aluminum frame, reducing construction time to only a few hundred hours requiring no special tooling or skills.
On February 24, 1971, the first $200 deposit to reserve a “place in line” to receive a kit was accepted, with the target shipping date being May 24, 1972. By August 1971, 800 deposits had been taken, even though the first BD-5 prototype had yet to complete high-speed taxi tests. By the end of the year, they had over 4,300 orders, making it one of the most popular general aircraft projects in modern history.
Flight testing of the prototype, N500BD, began on September 12, 1971, and it soon became evident that the stability of the aircraft with the original V-tail was marginal at best, and clearly needed a redesign. The decision was made to switch to an all-metal fuselage as well.
Final designs were complete by mid 1973, the split flaps and spoilers had disappeared, the canopy and cockpit dimensions had changed, and the aircraft had new landing gear systems and a completely new tail section.
Bede decided to create an unconventional variant of the BD-5 with a small jet engine. The result was the sleek BD-5J which used the Sermel TRS-18-046 turbojet (now Microturbo, a division of Turbomeca). The original engines were produced under license by Ames Industrial in the USA. The wing was modified to an “intermediate” size with a span of 17 feet. The BD-5J has also held the Guinness record for the World’s Smallest Jet for more than 25 years.
• Crew and Passengers: 1
• Length: 12 ft to 13.5 ft w/stretch kits (3.88 m to 4.11 m)
• Wingspan: 14 ft to 21 ft 6 in (4.26 m to 6.55 m)
• Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.6 m)
• Empty weight: 415 lbs.
• Gross weight: 859 lb
• Max takeoff weight: 1,100 lb (530 kg)
• Powerplant: 1 Microturbo Couguar or TRS-18; kit form by BD-Micro Technologies powered by a Quantum Turbine TJ100 engine.
• Fuel capacity: 32- 46 gallons
• Maximum speed: 217 kts