The Optica was a revolutionary design to obtain the best possible
all-around view that could be obtained by a fixed-wing aircraft. This
would make the aircraft very useful in the fields of: police and
frontier patrol; pipeline and powerline inspection; forestry and
coastal patrol; film, TV and press reporting; and touring. Despite
its revolutionary design, it is a no-nonsense aircraft, simple and rugged.
The cabin, shaped like an insects eye, was mounted ahead of the
wing and the ducted fan nacelle. Propulsion came from a four-cylinder
Avco Lycoming pusher engine driving a five-bladed fixed-pitch fan, to
ensure quietness inside the cabin and from the ground. The
considerable flap area gave the Optica STOL capabilities and it could
be operated from soft ground. The low wing load with pre-set flaps
and low stalling speed permitted operations at very low speeds, with
an endurance of up to nine hours.
The airframe of the first prototype was constructed in a London
workshop, moved to Cranfield for final assembly and flew for the
first time in the hands of Angus McVitie on December 14, 1979. Powered
by an 160 hp O-320-32B engine, the aircraft was registrated as G-BGMW
with the c/n EA7/001. Production was started at Old Sarum, Salisbury,
Wiltshire, and the Optica was certified by the UK Civil Aviation
Authority on February 12, 1985. The first two production aircraft were
delivered to Air Foyle in March, one of those, G-KATY (c/n EA7/004),
was leased to Britains Hampshire Constabulary on May 14, 1985
for trials. Unfortunately it crashed the following day, killing both
crewmembers; evidence of mechanical or structural failure was not found.
In October 1985 the company went into receivership with 6 aircraft
completed, 16 sold and 4 in various stages of production. In December
a new company, Optica Industries, was formed to enable production to
continue. The Optica received 46 refinements, from wing fences,
upward curved wingtips to new door locks, and was certified for IFR
flight. This all led to a change in designation, sales calling it
the Optica Mk. 2, but officially known as OA7 Series 300. Despite all
improvements sales and production progress was slow.
On January 16, 1987 the factory was hit by an arson attack, destroying
all final production jigs, and 8 completed Opticas, only the
pre-production aircraft survived. Within a month the company changed
its name to Brooklands Aircraft, but on April 14, it was renamed again
this time to Brooklands Aerospace. In March 1990 the company called
in a receiver and was subsequently taken over by FLS Aerospace
In 1992 an agreement was made with Utva in Yugoslavia for
subcontracting and final assembly of the aircraft.