This Merlin has nothing to do with kids in colorful costumes seeking sweets from their neighbors. It does have to do with pilots liking interesting airplanes that they can fly over their neighbors… especially when they can afford the airplane.
In the last couple years, I’ve created videos with Merlin developer, Chip Erwin that have been among the most-watched on Dave Loveman‘s Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer YouTube channel. I interviewed numerous industry leaders like Chip in around 1,000 videos. The 50 most popular of those productions have been watched more than 10 million times.
In addition, when I write about Merlin on this website, lots of readers seem to love it.
So it’s hardly any wonder that I would be pleased to continue our Top 50 video series with one from just a couple of years ago. In a short time, it passed the 275,000-views mark. Since then, I did another on Merlin that went over well on my own channel (see below).
Here, I provide an update on this fascinating project.
In a few short years, this energetic Florida-based developer has created an entire line of aircraft around the name Merlin — Merlin PSA, Merlin Lite, Electrolite, and a coming Merlin II. In addition, he offers the also-affordable TrueLite, about which I’ve written in this article.
We start off some years ago with Merlin PSA, for Personal Sport Aircraft. Merlin PSA was an aircraft with several tempting features and a short build time, but it was just the beginning.
In more recent years, the Merlin Lite erupted onto the Part 103 scene, lighting up cyberspace in a way very rarely seen. The design emerged during the darkest days of Covid delivering a much-needed breath of fresh air.
At the Midwest LSA Expo 2020 — the one and only airshow I attended during that difficult year — a group put the prototype version of Merlin Lite on a set of scales. In lieu of costly certified ones, Chip purchased a group of six new bathroom scales, and we rotated among them to average the results. This exercise proved that Merlin Lite in all metal and with a complete enclosure and many features (see below) could still make Part 103. Many were amazed.
Chip is far from done.
In 2022 we saw the emergence of the Merlin Lite as a motorglider and in 2023 we saw yet another long wing Merlin Lite fitted with floats, an “ultralight motorglider floatplane.”
I need to go back in time briefly to remind readers that Chip Erwin is also the man who created what became known as PiperSport, more correctly called the Czech Aircraft Works SportCruiser.
Clearly, this is a developer who knows how to bring an aircraft to market and put it into production. It’s taking some time for him to bring Merlin completely online because he is doing this in the modern way. Components are coming from various places around the world, where Chip established connections after years of globetrotting.
Now he is joining together aircraft elements. One of those was a set of floats that he developed during the Czech Aircraft Works days. Chip has deep experience with water flying and long ago developed metal floats as demonstrated by the straight (non-amphibious) floats seen nearby.
So vigorous and thorough has been Chip’s development of the Merlin line that the one element of criticism I hear is that production suffered. As anyone with small business experience is aware, when you have a lot of irons in the fire, it can be challenging to keep on schedule. Chip must not sleep much because he’s always thinking and networking.
Recently I spoke with 2023 EAA Ultralight Hall of Fame inductee, Paul Mather to learn the state of Merlin Lite production. Why Paul?
Known for his M-Squared line of very light aircraft, Paul has been experimenting on work with other manufacturers to get kits built into ready-to-fly aircraft. Within the Experimental Amateur Built community, this is straightforwardward. Fortunately, it’s even easier with Part 103. The modest rule allows anyone to fully build a compliant Part 103 aircraft.
Paul told me of new equipment he has acquired to facilitate assembly of Merlin Lites. “This is a very straightforward kit,” Paul observed. He has several coming together at this time. Those that have been waiting for the Merlin Lite will see their delivery times get closer.
We have a “year back log” Chip said on a recent phone conversation. USA assembly is now operating and delivering and that should steadily pull down the back log. “Paul has the skills, the facilities, the knowledge, and the tools to consistently build aircraft. He is also a longtime FAA Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR),” so Paul knows exactly what is permitted under agency rules.
“Merlin Lite is our focus now,” Chip added. “Yes, because many pilots have asked, we are working on Merlin II, which has already been flying in Europe.” However, with Merlin Lite running hot, “Merlin II will have to wait,” he added.
Now that we’ve been through the line, and you’ve heard some update, consider this: the airplane you see in the pictures, on floats, is truly a Part 103 aircraft, but one which can also qualify as a motorglider. This gives this aircraft some very unique privileges.
As a Part 103, Merlin Lite can be fully built for you and delivered ready-to-fly if you wish. The kit version is quite straightforward as I have reported in the past. Some people may prefer to build it to add further equipment than permitted under Part 103.
As a Part 103 vehicle, no medical is needed. As an EAB, only a driver license is needed. In the case of motorglider, no medical is needed after you prove you can fly a glider and can operate a motorglider. These skills are not particularly challenging but a few steps are involved. The reward you can now fly an aircraft faster (and heavier) than a Part 103 vehicle but still has no medical requirement.
How Much? — Yes, you should ask in this case because you can probably afford Merlin Lite, for many thousands less than the 2023 average price of a new car.
“Ready-to-fly: Includes engine, EFIS, EMS, and electric trim. Finished price: $34,000 — Merlin Lite is an all-new version of the Merlin with has a longer wing and a lighter airframe to meet the FAA Part 103 ultralight rule,” said Aeromarine LSA.
I didn’t even mention Chip’s V-Twin engine in late-stage development, but you can see more on it in the video below. These are three of our most popular… ENJOY!
AeroMarine LSA Merlin Lite
So many, Chip “feels compelled” to list them
- All-aluminum construction
- BRS-500 emergency airframe parachute
- Polini 303 DS liquid-cooled engine
- Electric starting
- 3-blade ground adjustable carbon propeller
- Interior fully epoxy primed
- Electric trim
- Tundra tires
- Dual hydraulic brakes
- Parking brake
- Airspeed indicator or full EFIS
- Fuel gauge
- Engines instruments: Tach, water temp, CHT
- Tricycle gear
- 12-volt power supply/charger
- EarthX battery
- Dual air vents
- 5 windows
- Pushrods with triple bearings
- 4-position slotted flaps
- 25-pound baggage capacity
- 4.15-gallon wing tank
- Cabin heat
- Aeromarine LSA, full contact info plus all content on this website
- Merlin article from Sun ‘n Fun 2023, describing the line, on this website
- Article with video introducing Merlin Lite and weighing it, live
- 2017 article describing the kit-building effort for Merlin
- M-Squared aircraft plus contact info for Paul Mather
- Article on TrueLite, another very affordable aircraft Chip offers
- Dave Loveman’s YouTube channel with more than 1,500 videos
With 278,000 views in a fairly short time, this popular video helps you understand the great interest in Chip’s Merlin Lite in all its configurations.
On my own channel, here’s an update from earlier in 2023, already with 60,000 views. Now you see the aircraft in full dress, ready for first deliveries soon.
You hear references to Chip’s V-Twin. Here’s a fairly recent video about that (viewed 57,000 times):