Let’s get that name dealt with right away — say “ACK-will-lay.” The model name looks more awkward than it is and sounds more graceful than it looks. The word translates from Latin as Eagle. Though unusual, Aquilae is a worthy name for a light aircraft.
When you glance at the photos nearby, do you get the feeling you’ve seen this before? You should, but you may be wrong.
Popular Design Configuration
Aquilae looks very much like but is not the G1 STOL seen earlier (see this article). Some years before G1 arrived here in America, I’d written about French-produced version after seeing it equipped with hand controls and with its wings folded compactly on a trailer at the German Aero Friedrichshafen show. The basic design has been flying for close to 25 years.
Originally developed as the Yuma by Alisport, a French company, the design was later taken over by G1 Aviation, another French company that does extensive machine shop work for several aircraft builders. Alisport produced plans for their Yuma and that’s what G1 used when they took over after the original Alisport engineer retired. It is also what Aquilae is using.
Puma itself may have started as a modification of the Zenith CH-701 though these threads get increasingly hard to follow when changes are made.
All this made me look twice when I first spotted the gleaming Aquilae in polished aluminum.
Mark Mellicker represented the G1 STOL at airshows for the last couple years (see this earlier article). As happens in aviation and any other business, events changed the organization and another company at AirVenture told me they were now representing G1. So I had two clues when I saw Mark by this shiny new airplane. Mark decided to go on his own and, voila!, Aquilae.
You see Mark’s version has the simple wing-fold system that many buyers like. It’s a large-ish, STOL-capable design like G1 that fits the current-day standard for LSA. Gross weight is 1,320 pounds and the design uses the 100-horsepower 912 ULS. That is the one you see in the nearby images as it was displayed at AirVenture Oshkosh 2023.
Mark and his Ontario, Canada-based partner Lionel Neels have plans for Aquilae that will transform it into an American-made aircraft. While Lionel will do some builder assistance and service for Canadian customers, his capacity may be too small for the interest. Already Aquilae has generated eight orders (more on that below).
Mark and Lionel have teamed up in a cooperative arrangement with AeroPup developer, Don Fielden. Both companies displayed side-by-side at the recent Midwest LSA Expo 2023.
Fieldman’s AeroPup operation is based in Lakeland, Florida (home to Sun ‘n Fun). See more about his import of the Australian design which he will be fabricating in Lakeland.
Don’s Florida base will coordinate similar actives for both design, subletting machine work and other fabrication. Don will do the main kit assembly provide build center work as will Mark in western Illinois (not far from Galena for those who know the area). Lionel will handle Canadian interest.
The first Aquilae will use some G1 parts supplied by the French company but most of the airframe components will be sourced the US. Eventually it is planned to become an all-American operation.
Mark said Aquilae is “entirely built with 2024-T3 Alclad aluminum fitted over a 4130 steel tube welded frame. As seen, the wings fold compactly so that it can be towed on a small trailer and could be kept in some garages.
Builders can choose between engine and propellers; see below. All models have electric flaps and trim. Two fuel tanks holding 9.25 gallons each are mounted in the wings.
Hydraulic brakes combine with landing gear composed of half blades made of aluminum, steel, composite.
Three models are envisioned. G1 in France developed the tricycle gear model that many pilots may prefer. Those who want a more off-airport-capable Aquilae can choose a taildragger that Lionel and Mark prefer.
The latter will be available in two forms, one with more mild bush qualities and one more robust. The standard model still boasts the STOL capabilities but uses conventional gear legs albeit with larger tires.
Those what want the full bush plane experience may prefer the Grizzly, which will offer a shock-absorbing tailwheel with large, longer-extension shock absorbers on the main gear. The Grizzly model was also envisioned for the 141-horsepower Rotax 915iS but may now move to the newer, even more power 916iS with 160 horsepower. The more potent model will also feature a glass cockpit by MGL.
A float model is also in development with aluminum floats. Mark envisions these available in straight or amphibious gear.
“At North America Eagle, we are committed to revolutionizing the aviation industry by producing innovative and sustainable aircraft that meet the evolving needs of our customers,” said the company. “Our vision is to become the go-to manufacturer for STOL airplanes that offer exceptional performance, reliability and safety, while minimizing environmental impact.”
“We offer a range of services to meet the needs of our customers,” said Mark. “From design and manufacturing to maintenance and support, we are committed to providing the best possible experience for our clients. Our team of experts is always ready to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have.”
“We presume that many customers may have zero experience in airplane construction so we decided to make it simple for our customers,” said Mark. “The kit will come 49% preassembled and we believe that with basic home tools you will be able to complete the airframe (before engine installation or painting) in about 150 hours.” Mark added in early October that the team was upgrading their assembly manual with improved instructions and lots of pictures to ease the building process.
In summer 2021, a G1 complete airframe kit listed for $39,500. Even after two years of the highest inflation we’ve seen in many decades, here’s a surprise: the price of Aquilae is lower than G1 two years ago.
Mark has already collected eight deposits for Aquilae. He believe first shipments will occur by summer 2024. Of the eight, three want nose wheel models and two want the Grizzly. Having such options helps pilots make the purchase decision.
In summer of 2023, an Aquilae kit was priced at $34,950. The builder can add a choice of engines, avionics as desired, any interior finish, and paint or accent graphics. Mark thought you could get airborne for $70,000 although choosing the Grizzly model with the more costly Rotax engine and fuller avionics will be more expensive. It might still stay under $100,000 ready-to-fly and as we move into 2024, that price sounds fairly reasonable.
Aquilae by North American Eagle
all specifications supplied by manufacturer
- Empty weight — 731 pounds*
- Max Gross Weight — 1320 pounds*
- Wingspan — 32.5 feet
- Length — 22 feet
- Height — 7.67 feet
- Folded Wing Width — 8 feet
- Cabin Width — 48 inches
- Wing Surface — 153.6 square feet
- Max. Wing Load — +4/-2 g
- Rate of Climb — 1.000 to 1.500 feet per minute
- Never-Exceed Speed — 125 miles per hour
- Stall Speed — < 31 miles per hour
- Take-off Distance — 60 feet to 200 feet
- Landing Distance — 95 feet to 200 feet
- Range — 500 miles to 585 mile
* not including floats or parachute