Big Blog From Prague
OK, a lot to report so I will get right on it and save the dribble for last for those still reading…..
This trip to Tech Pro Aviation in Olomouc, Czech Republic, was maybe trip 4 in the last 1-1/2 years or so. I should not have to go over there so often but if you want things to get done…. But to be fair, the Czechs get a lot done if they know what to do. And the Vtwin project was a moving target with all the R&D we needed to finish. And to be clear: I might have underestimated the amount of engineering required to make the Vtwin happen.
I have been told numerous times at airshows “What a great idea! Why hasn’t anyone done this before?” I know why. Its snot easy. It is basically impossible to buy Vtwins factory-direct and built to your specs from a company making thousands of engines each month. Our Chinese connects made that happen. And that was just the start. We needed custom reduction drives designed and manufactured. Then we designed the cooling system and had that custom fabricated. Then the fuel system which went through a dozen revision. Plus, we have the custom wiring harness designed and will be wired up to our specs with all perfect lengths and connectors. Wiring the engine can be done now in minutes. And then there is the Deluxe panel. We are now designing an avionics tray to mount all the remote components behind the hinged panel. And another custom wiring harness needs fabrication. Plus we designed two custom circuit boars to control the entire avionics and greatly simply the wiring. Even I can wire up an aircraft now. Kind of. And, of course, the panel itself which is now done and getting laser cut, electroplated, then laser-labeled. Send me your N numbers!
And the cowl, radiator, exhaust, and engine mount all have to fit perfectly. We found a frustrating 5cm difference in the engine mount position from one CAD system to another which had to be sorted. It seems like endless work. And for those waiting so long for these components a frustrating wait to have a finished airframe with nothing to install.
I plan to deliver as many of these component in person to those I can drive to. And take some time with each builder to get them sorted and jump-start their building.
I keep saying it will be worth the wait and I know it to be true. The Merlin Vtwin will set a new standard for sophistication and modern engineering in a LSA-class aircraft.
Here are some finished Vtwin cowls shipping soon already painting to match customer Merlins!
Here is proof that Martin and I actually do some work! And a photo of the latest BRS installation with new shroud covers.
3 Merlins are ready to ship. We have had some cancellations so orders were shuffled. Merlin #4 is in the paint shop now. When done we can ship. ETA to Alabama is October sometime. Side note: It is sad for me to have a customer cancel due to health reasons. If only I could have delivered sooner they would have realized their dream. And it was good not to take huge deposits so I can manage the refund.
Some Merlin discussion points:
- Inflation is too often simply an excuse to raise prices, I am not on that wagon. How much more should we charge if the price of aluminum doubles? Say it jumps from $5/lb. to $10/lb. Sounds like a lot huh? There is only about 200 lbs. of aluminum in a Merlin so that would add $1k to the cost. Aluminum is now costing more because it is directly related to the cost of electricity which has really gone up. But it won’t double the cost of the aircraft. We will raise some prices but that is mostly due to added value like on the panel electronic and wiring.
- We will move Merlin assembly to the USA and will have higher labor costs. But we think that cost will be offset by lower freight costs.
- Electronic components are a real issue. We have to design our circuit boards around available components. MGL has to do the same. There are incredibly long lead times for electric chit. We do order the panel components as soon as an order arrives so this lead time is minimized somewhat. See? It is not just us late.
- We have plenty of engines and reductions drives. I will feel like Santa finally delivering these presents. Hope my sleigh is big enough! I didn’t think about that until now.
The Merlin Lite is really looking good! New cowl is finished. Floats are finished. Next week Merlin Lite #1 goes to the airport for final assembly and test flights. I am not going to make any more excuses. It has taken about triple the time I expected. It is what it is. Who wants me to take short cuts? Here are your Merlin Lite bullets:
- The panel is great. EFIS, Trim control and indicator. Two fuel tanks (only one is allowed for Part 103 to stay under the 5 gallon limit), EMS for the engine monitoring, and the Polini dual ignition engine control. Huge space for your phone or iPad for navigating those long cross county flights.
- We will soon conduct a fully-compliant to the Czech/German UL-2 standard flight tests. And we will physically test the key components such as the wing. So we won’t be shipping these Merlins to USA just yet. Let’s get it done right.
- We will build and bench-test a couple of electric power designs we have been working on. We can easily retrofit the electric power on to a Polini-powered Merlin Lite. I am really looking forward to flying the first viable electric-powered ultralight floatplane that doubles as a self-launching glider.
- Speaking of floats, they are looking great! They might even be big enough for the Merlin. But really, the Merlin Lite is ideal for floats with the slower speed, bigger wing, and huge flaps. The installation with streamlined tubes is done. We even have a unique water rudder control using push-pull Teleflex cable and a way-to-sophisticated water rudder retract lever.
- These 750 floats are suitable for a lot of ultralights. We will start building them in USA later this year.
And here is my back yard airport. If you look closely (And not at my wife and daughter), you can see the waterski course which doubles as our seaplane runway. And the windsock is already in position and operating.
Still reading? The dribble starts now. Today my son flys to Prague and will attend the Czech Technical University CVUT to study electrical/computer engineering. This university is one of the best in Europe. I suppose they accepted him for their hockey team and not his stellar grades. But he is smarter than the average bear so should do OK.
My wife will fly here also to help get him sorted into the dorm and Czech life. Should not be too hard as he was born in Prague and Czech was his native language half his life. I would like to stay too but have to fly back to USA for the Midwest Expo starting next Thursday. I will miss his hockey try-out. Sigh. But also really need to get back to work in Dayton too.
Finally I have a day off and can spend it writing a blog. Or moving on to Plan B!
AWESOME NEWS CHIP!
Chip That was a great update, thanks for the transparency. Most of us know what a huge undertaking the Merlin project has been. Congratulations on each increment of success. Victory is in site and the excitement is building. B.