Oshkosh is nearly here again so it must be seaplane flying time. America’s north is rich with open water for fun or safety. When the summer season arrives, seaplanes are at their finest. Indeed, AirVenture’s Seaplane Base operation is a whole show alongside the main show; if you’ve never gone, a visual treat awaits you.
One LSA seaplane we’ve been anticipating for a long time is Vickers Aircraft‘s Wave from New Zealand. Lead by namesake Paul Vickers, the down-under company has been deliberate about development.
I wrote about Wave following its maiden flight. That splendid achievement awkwardly came immediately before Sun ‘n Fun 2022 launched. As a result, other show-related news quickly pushed down the Wave story on my home page.
That was unfortunate but unavoidable. The show must go on (and be reported). I’m always amazed at how many aircraft make first flights or other notable events just as some show is opening.
As EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023 arrives, Vickers is not packing up for an appearance. Instead, they’ll pursue testing.
“We have dialed up the pace,” exclaimed Paul Vickers. “The Vickers Wave has completed the hull testing phase and the results are incredible.” Hull testing?
Land-based aircraft don’t require such testing, which relates to floating a seaplane in the water, firing up the engine, moving fast in taxi mode, and abruptly turning the aircraft to see how it behaves and fares. As you read, Paul was pumped.
He continued, “2022 in New Zealand had a particularly windy summer/fall that exceeded our flight test plan wind limits daily, drastically reducing the time we could fly.” During this long windy spell, “We took this opportunity to test the hull and its capabilities, fine-tuning it to remove any unfavorable tendencies other seaplane manufacturers tolerate.”
“We recently had a seaplane test pilot undertake hull testing,” explained Paul. “He gave Wave 10 out of 10 for all aspects of safety and performance; by far the best, safest, and fun hull he has experienced.”
Are you wondering whether this was simply Paul’s pilot buddy giving his friend’s creation a thumbs-up? No, Vickers reported that the New Zealand CAA (their FAA) has strict test pilot criteria that involve CAA approvals and the test pilot being a graduate from a known test pilot school, usually U.S. military. “Combine this with requiring seaplane ratings and experience, and Vickers — based in New Zealand — [had a small supply] of available test pilots. Plus, we are very selective.” Who can blame him? Paul has spent years of his life bring Wave to reality. This is no time to cut corners.
“We are now scheduled to recommence test flights in September once the weather settles,”Paul promised. “This will offer the opportunity to conduct some air-to-air videos and photography that has eluded us to date.”
Inn 2019, Wave was given an FAA exemption to LSA regulations regarding maximum takeoff weight allowed. Usually a seaplane is permitted 1,430 pounds (650 kilograms). After its exemption request was granted, Wave can tip the scales up to 1,850 pounds (839 kilograms).
“We water-tested our entire CG range at slightly above our MTOW of 1,850 pounds,” observed Paul. “Wave effortlessly and quickly accelerated onto the step in a matter of seconds, requiring minimal pilot input. From there, it rapidly accelerates towards takeoff speed. From extensive testing, we can confidently say that rotation will be achieved in under 20 seconds, in approximately 500 feet.”
New Zealand is a great distance from Rotax but the Austrian engine manufacturer does business around the globe. Indeed, half a world away, Vickers is now designed for a Rotax 160-horsepower 916iS with turbocharger and intercooler (image). Given this much power, even an 1,850 pound Wave should exuberantly leave the water.
Fitting the new engine, completing all water-based testing, and preparing for ASTM’s lengthy flight test requirements will keep Team Vickers close to their shop for the next few months.
“We will not be attending Oshkosh this year (2023) as we have a particular path to market that we will begin to unveil in 2024.” Paul explained this comment, “We have watched and learned from other aircraft (and automotive) manufacturers over the past 10 years and clearly see the mistakes, and promises, that were made and missed. We will be applying the same thought process and discipline to our pending rollout as we have done to the entire project to date. There is no point in having an aircraft without a manufacturing company to support it, so we did both in parallel. Likewise, there is no point embarking on expensive marketing and airshow displays until we have a product to deliver and demonstrate.”
Who would argue these points? Yet it takes patience — and money — to go at a deliberate pace.
To appease those anxious to get in line for a Wave, Paul noted, “We are releasing a few early delivery positions at each milestone so we can confidently begin to scale and ramp year one and two production with confidence, allowing us to secure engines, carbon fiber, and avionics. If you want to get the early list, send Vickers an email.
“We are 13 years into the development of the Wave,” Paul emphatically stated. “Our manufacturing facilities are complete, and initial deliveries are scheduled.”
Are you interested in riding a powerful Wave? Discover more using these links…
- Vickers Wave, contact info and web links
- Get in line for a Wave — email Vickers
- Vickers Wave, article about maiden flight on this website
- Wave goes in the water, article on this website
- Vickers Wave gets FAA weight increase, article on this website
- Rotax 916iS debut at Sun ‘n Fun 2023, article on this website
- More Vickers Wave testing + links to many other LSA seaplanes
- See thousands of airplanes at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023