Airborne Awesomosity, Genius Innovators

The Taylor Mini-IMP

From the time I was just a kid, one of my favorite aircraft designs has been the Taylor Mini-IMP. Looking like the love child of a sailplane and the Douglas X-3 Stiletto, it was everything I imagined flying should be (and still do). And unlike the X-3, the Mini-IMP’s homebuilt availability and prop-driven affordability made the dream seem so temptingly tangible.

The jet-fighter-esque, single-seat Mini-IMP first flew in the early ’70s. The tiny, racy homebuilt was a successful rethinking of Molt Taylor’s stillborn two-place IMP (Independently Made Plane). It featured a pusher prop driven by a mid-mounted engine (usually a 150-200 HP certified aircraft engine or a Revmaster VW conversion) via a remarkablely advanced driveshaft design that used a limited-slip dry-fluid clutch, load-isolating bearings and a flexible disk coupling to avoid harmonic vibration or undue loading of either the prop or the engine crankshaft. It also featured an integral engine cooling fan.
The Mini-Imp distilled flying down to the most pure, unencumbered experience possible. Gross weight is only 1,000 lbs, and you don’t climb into a Mini-IMP so much as strap it on. Molt famously described his Mini-IMP as “The nearest thing there is to a witch’s broomstick.” With its retractable tricycle gear and sleek fuselage, it could reach 200 MPH with a Continental O-200 installed, and cruise at a very efficient 150 MPH with only 60 HP on board. While the flight characteristics are much snappier than the typically sluggish, forgiving Cessnas most low-time pilots fly, the Mini-IMP nicely balanced responsive performance with stability, predictable behavior and reasonable take-off and landing speeds. The fact that the Mini-IMP used fairly conventional construction techniques highlights Taylor’s genius.
Taylor went on to create two more IMP variations, the smaller Micro-IMP (which never flew) and then the even more radical front-engined, rear-propped Taylor Bullet. Molt’s other airplane designs are remarkable as well: the Aerocar[!], the Coot amphibian, and the Navy’s XLRQ-1 Amphibious Assault Glider.

Molt Taylor died fifteen years ago, but the plans for the Mini-IMP are still available from the Mini-IMP Aircraft Company. I’m old enough now to know that I’ll probably never build or own my own Mini-IMP, but flying one remains on my bucket list.



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  • P161911

    Reminds me of the BD-5J from the James Bond film Octopussy.
    <img src=""width=500&gt;
    [youtube zfXvAFmEK3Y youtube]

    • Tanshanomi

      The Mini-IMP was everything the BD-5 intended and failed to be: namely, useable.

    • Rust-MyEnemy

      Despite that opening sequence, and the car chase with the Alfa GTV6, Octopussy still manages to be the Worst Bloody Bond Film Of All Time.

      Such a shame that tiny jets rarely come to much, the Microjet is matched only by the Chichester-Miles Leopard in the Rusty's favourite failed tiny jets heirarchy.

      <img src="; width="400">

      • P161911

        Octopussy is the first James Bond film that I saw in the theater, so it does hold a bit of a special place for me, but yeah it is pretty bad.

      • Number_Six

        Honda and Raytheon Beech (I think it's them) are building small jets, just not quite as tiny as to be that cool:
        <img src="; width="500" />

        • muthalovin

          I love tiny jets. Its like a toy, but oh so much better. Now, to get into high-finance to be able to afford one…

        • Rust-MyEnemy

          I read a flight test of this in Todays Pilot. Very cool, but small to me means fit-in-garage-not-hangar.

      • zaddikim

        That is a fantastic looking jet.

        Damn my astigmatism – the closest I get to flying is FGFS.

  • Black Steelies

    Jet-fighter-esque haha… Imagine.

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  • rovingardener

    I'm definitely enjoying this. VLJs and the relatively new LSA class, (Light Sport) are some of my favorite things on earth.

    Cirrus' Vision Jet is something I wish I'd been involved in. If I have the opportunity to work for Cirrus, I'll probably have to learn to live with Duluth, MN weather and do contract work for Arctic Cat if at all possible.