Some LSA enthusiasts know of a struggle between Czech Aircraft Works and an investor group called Slavia Capital. The latter has been aggressive in their attempts to take over CZAW…unsuccessfully, thanks to the bulldog tenacity of American founder, Chip Erwin. Despite the battle, while CZAW has done well with their SportCruiser in 2008, climbing to the #8 position in overall registrations. Yet something had to give; CZAW’s amphibious Mermaid never entered production. *** Now Mermaid is returning to the market under the name Wet Aero, Inc., though you know proprietor Danny Defelici as the U.S. partner to CZAW. While the SportCruiser builder fends off the aggressor, Defelici said, “I felt it was necessary to get [Mermaid] into production.” Wet Aero has set up its own facility in Kunovice (near CZAW) in the eastern Czech Republic to manufacture the flying boat’s major aluminum sections.
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At the Sebring LSA Expo, visitors saw two airplanes they’d seen before, but these were actually revised models that are now ready for waiting pilots. The Mermaid charmed the LSA world when it was first introduced, since collecting more than 200 order deposits. The boat hull LSA also earned the first of two exemptions regarding the “repositionable” gear detail that has so befuddled FAA lawyers. The agency says it will fix this part of the SP/LSA rule by May 2007 but Mermaid is one of only two amphibs that allow Sport Pilots to reposition the gear. [UPDATE: LSA Aero’s Freedom S100 also recently won an exemption.] Mermaid’s engine now sits up on struts. Not only does this look great, the change has solved prior challenges of the Jabiru 3300 engine installation. It is also said to decrease noise. *** SportCruiser may look the same to you but the “third generation” model is said to fly better and it certainly looks sleeker with its beautifully shaped canopy.
With 191 Mermaid orders on the books, Sport Aircraft Works (SAW) is understandably anxious to start deliveries. The trouble is — or the advantage is, if you’re a willing buyer — that Mermaid is an amphibian. That means it has gear that moves, or…”repositions.” The repositionable gear dilemma remains unresolved, despite the petition for exemption by Czech Aircraft Works. So for now, says SAW’s Danny Defelici, “We’ll be placarding the Mermaid against moving the gear in flight.” He added that at the recent Sebring Expo, several top FAA officials looked for a reason that Mermaid could not be SLSA certified. “They found nothing to prevent it, so we went ahead and obtained our certificate,” Danny explained. Mermaid is #28 to win SLSA credentials. While the agency figures out its response, an exemption process could allow all floatplane or amphib producers to go forward with deliveries in time for the summer season.
The final day of the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo brought good flying conditions until mid-afternoon when light precipitation returned. The good start allowed us to record two Video Pilot Reports (VPR), one on the Magnus Aircraft all-carbon-fiber Fusion 212 and the other on the fully enclosed SilverLight Aviation American Ranger AR1 gyroplane. The videos will take some time to edit but I’ll provide a quick glimpse below.
One surprise arrival was Aeromarine LSA‘s Mermaid. Remember this model? This Chip Erwin creation was really the forerunner of the modern LSA seaplane category. Before Mermaid, we had Progressive Aerodyne‘s Searey and Aero Adventure‘s Aventura. Both those models have been upgraded for the time of ASTM standards compliance but early in the new millennium it was accurate to call them “ultralight seaplanes” built of gusseted aluminum structures covered with sewn Dacron surfaces.
Years ago, back in the early days of the Light-Sport Aircraft sector exploding into the world of aviation, of affordable aviation, one of the early entries was SeaMax, from a Brazilian-based company called AirMax.
An old friend in the business and a supremely capable pilot named Carlos Bessa helped SeaMax successfully prove standards compliance to win approval as a Special LSA (#63 of 143 on our SLSA List). Although Chip Erwin’s Mermaid was attracting a lot of attention at the time, SeaMax was an attractive offering.
Another longtime friend in the business, Tom Peghiny — the man behind Flight Design USA but also an astute observer of light aircraft — urged me to go examine the SeaMax. He thought it possessed qualities I would appreciate. He turned out to be spot on.
Subsequently I flew SeaMax for about four hours with Carlos, spread over a few days.
SeaMax from Brazil has been somewhat absent in recent years. I will spare you the detail but the company used a lot of energy to repel an undesired takeover. In recent months that was resolved and the company is now ready to move forward smartly.
SeaMax was an early LSA to meet the consensus standards as required by FAA. The first was the Mermaid in February 2006. Second was the Colyaer Freedom on January 2007. On Christmas Day 2007, SeaMax became the third.
However, of those three only SeaMax has remained in regular production for the last ten years. More recently, SeaMax was followed by SeaRey, Super Petrel, and A5 as ASTM-compliant LSA seaplanes. See our SLSA List for all aircraft shown in sortable columns.
At Sun ‘n Fun 2017, I did a video interview with designer Miguel Rosario that you can watch below.
AirMax SeaMax — Icon A5 — Vickers Wave — MVP — Lisa Akoya… you only need look at the best promoted brands to see that arguably the most innovative ideas in light aircraft are coming from the LSA seaplane sector. Each of these is a great example of visionary engineering.
Others LSA or light kit seaplane developments — Searey, Mermaid, ATOL Avion, Aero Adventure, among others — are somewhat more conventional but that’s reassuring to some potential buyers. All these names have one enormous advantage. They have practical field experience. Of the five in the first paragraph, only SeaMax has a longer period of use by owners in regular operation.
Now consider Equator Aircraft P2 Xcursion, an electric hybrid seaplane with several compelling ideas. I wrote about this in an article two years ago; now we have an update.
The newest owner of a SLSA Special Airworthiness certificate is Triton AeroMarine for their Skytrek. First seen at Oshkosh six weeks ago, boss Thomas Hsueh said he would have approval shortly and he was true to his word. The proof came at the just concluded Midwest LSA Expo 2016 in Mt. Vernon, Illinois where Thomas and his young team brought the first SLSA version of Skytrek
Yes, I know Skycatcher was the first designed-in-the-USA, made-in-China Special LSA. The two approaches differ in two ways, however, as Triton did their work and test flying in China where Cessna did all their development in Wichita, Kansas and merely sublet the production work to Shenyang (a large state-owned aircraft producer). Triton, a private non-state company, has a corporate base in Washington State. Its factory is in Zhuhai, China, home to a well establish airshow. The other difference is that Skytrek also has Type Design Approval in China so it has passed inspection by two sets of aviation authorities.
It’s summer. It’s hot. The water beckons. Yet, you’re a pilot. How do you enjoy both? Get a seaplane, preferably a Light-Sport or light kit seaplane. You have several choices. The trouble is that any seaplane is priced well above landplanes of similar configuration. Some LSA seaplanes smash through the $200,000 barrier. That may represent a fair value for what you get but it exceeds the budget of many recreational pilots. How about $55,000 to $65,000? That sounds better, doesn’t it?
Runway testing and cross country trials of the float-equipped Merlin PSA is complete. Aeromarine LSA owner Chip Erwin reports performing stalls, turns, climb, and cruise tests, each of which passed his criteria, although he continues in trials. The floatplane Merlin has not yet entered the water but that will happen in days after Chip finishes his initial wringing out of the float version. These floats are amphibious so land trials made sense at first.
Taildraggers may be among the least understood and most feared aircraft available in the LSA space … or for that matter throughout general aviation. While we have many good choices that I’ll list below, I have nonetheless heard from many readers or airshow visitors that they are uncertain about their operation of an aircraft that has no nosewheel. If you have no taildragger skills, you’ll also find it a challenge to get proper flight instruction in a “standard” aircraft. For those seeking new skills in flying, however, taildraggers may provide high satisfaction. Most who have crossed the barrier to taildragging subsequently look very fondly at such aircraft, seeing a sleeker yet gutsier, more rugged appearance. Of course, nosewheels dominate general aviation as they can be easier to land, especially in crosswinds, but once you learn the lesson of “happy feet” — or keeping your feet active on the rudder pedals throughout approach and touchdown — you may always yearn for more taildragger time.