Almost these photos are of the Vtwin being installed on Merlin at Tech Pro Aviation. The firewall forward package is pretty much done! Welding jigs and cowl molds finished. In 2 weeks I will be in Czech controlling and checking this work and inspecting the next 6 Merlins getting ready to ship plus checking on the assembly of the first two Merlin Lite aircraft. One will be Polini-powered and the 2nd will be electric. We will be making bench tests of the new electric power system as well.
The last photo above is a customer Vtwin installation.
We have a batch of reduction drives shipped 2 weeks ago from India. Tracking shows they moved from one part of the post office to another part today. Still in India but looks like they got tired of walking around them and decided to send on their way.
Some Vtwin news: We have 19 in our warehouse and one arriving tomorrow to Dayton. When running the engine there are some idle issues as the ECU is programmed to idle without any load. On an aircraft there is the reduction drive and propeller load even at idle. We need to tune the ECU for this. We have ordered the software and a cable to make this action. We have a test stand, prop, and redrive all ready so after the show I will return to Dayton and complete this new ECU mapping. Then we can get busy shipping engines!
This Thursday the Midwest Expo starts so tomorrow I will drive a Merlin quick-build kit to this show and hand it over to the customer.
Container day! 4 Merlins, a set of 1450 amphibious floats, and some smuggled Slovak beer. Good thing too, gets pretty hot inside those containers. Already delivered 2 of the Merlins. Plus one to the Mt Vernon show, and one stays in Dayton for a build program.
https://www.aeromarine-lsa.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/PXL_20210827_143343355-scaled.jpg19202560Chiphttps://www.aeromarine-lsa.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/aeromarine-logo.pngChip2021-09-07 18:06:412021-09-07 18:06:41Vtwin news and more Merlin deliveries
Tomorrow the FAA arrives to inspect and issue the airworthiness certificate for a new Merlin with a 582 installed. Then I will test fly and ship. This one is going to Saudi Arabia.
Friday morning the next container arrives with 4 Merlin kits and one set of 1450 amphibious floats. Our hangar will be overflowing.
I will be in Dayton all week working on build programs. Then the week after is the road trip to the Mt. Vernon show 7-9 September. Then a Merlin on display there will continue to its’ new owner in Wisconsin. But he will have to wait until the Packer game is over on Sunday.
Then I return to Mt. Vernon to collect the Merlin Lite and bring it back to Dayton. Then I will take it to Florida to continue the flight test program.
In Vtwin news our dedicated production run of engines built to Aeromarine specifications was finished last week and we are now shipping these engines direct to customers. Our 2nd batch of reduction drives is in stock now and we will simply add some hardware and UPS to our Vtwin customers. Plus the first Vtwin Merlin cowl will be produced next week. The custom radiator and exhaust are both done as well. Now we just need to make a bunch to complete the firewall forward BOM and deliver the entire lot to our builders.
Shipping Vtwins direct by air from our Shanghai fulfilment center
Avionics is now the elephant in the room. I am getting a lot of components in stock but some items have as much as a 5 month backlog due to the microchip shortages. Plan ahead!
Container #3 is now full. I will inspect the Merlin kits on 29 September and ship in October if all is in order. I hope to have a lot of Vtwin firewall forward packages shipped in this container as well.
Container #4 should have 2 Merlin Lites in it. Electric and gas. But that depends on the flight test program that we will conduct in the Czech Republic. We plan to have both aircraft finished together for side-by-side flying and comparisons.
And no, the DEPOD is not going to be available anytime soon. It is an R&D project for the AFRL. But it sure would be fun installed on an Electrolite on floats. Like a duck off the pond! Hold my beer…..
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For me Oshkosh #41 is in the books. Little-known fact (keep it that way please) I have had 4 unplanned landings at this show. Might be a record.
The show was very good. Plenty of people. Hardly a mask in sight. More than 8,000 aircraft. Pretty good weather. Huge storm was bearing down directly on Oshkosh with hail predicted and many vendors were scrambling for bubble wrap and carpet padding to cover their aircraft with. I figured the dimples would just improve our cruise like a golf ball. Then this huge cell came right up to Oshkosh with an incredible lightning show, and dissipated. The collective will of the aviators put up a forcefield over the airport. Barely even got windy. Not so lucky in other parts of Wisconsin. Coulda been ugly but we dodged that bullet.
Merlin, Merlin Lite, DEP-OD, and Vtwin all on display on our prime real estate in the main aircraft area. Next year we may have a booth in the ultralight area as well so we can show off the Merlin Lite’s performance.
What’s DEP-OD you say? I just got done answering that question a few thousand times. Check out what Kitplanes wrote:
No, this is NOT a current option. It is a research project to prove my innovation. And might be scaled up to a real Hyper-STOL I am designing. But with COVID there has been a shortage of bar napkins so progress is slow.
Some DEP-OD images
Here is what you need to know about the Merlin Lite:
Order book stands at 19.
All the revisions are done including the tricycle gear.
Float design is done and 750 straight floats going into production this week. Only attachment points need refinement.
Parts for the first two Merlin Lites are finished.
Assembly of these two Merlin Lites has begun.
Serial #1 has the new Polini 303DS engine.
Serial #2 will be powered by a 30 kw electric motor and 10 kwh battery packs.
Motor/controller/battery packs (2)/ and 2 propellers are getting prepared for extensive bench testing.
Both aircraft will be flying in 1-2 months. 4 more Merlin Lites will be built this year (cross fingers)
The new long wing was installed with DEP-OD at Oshkosh. The wing is very impressive but I have said that before. Now the prototype is parked at Mt Vernon Airport queued up for the Midwest Expo in a few weeks. This was a logistics decision. Next container arrives to Dayton in 2 weeks. I will trailer one of the Merlins to this show. After the show I will deliver it to the Northern Wisconsin builder. Then I will return to Mt. Vernon to collect the Merlin Lite. Then drive to Dayton. Fly some. Work some. Then finally drive back to Florida. Maybe summer will be over by then.
In Vtwin news:
The factory has all our design change requests and has built one engine to these specs for our review. It is perfect. We even had a custom dipstick made for easy oil checking from a top cowl access cover.
Now they scheduled a custom production run of these engines for us. Enough to take up a lot of space in a container. We have also retained the space and services of a West Coast fulfilment center so we can quickly drop ship these engines directly to customers. This will save a lot on freight costs. We can ship reduction drives and props from Dayton by UPS.
Our Canadian customer is making quick work of his installation.
This is a month long trip: First week to Prague and Olomouc, then to Dayton to finish a Merlin and pack for Oshkosh. Then to Oshkosh for the marathon show, then ferry a couple aircraft to Mt Vernon in advance of the Midwest Expo in September, then drive to Florida. And shortly return to Dayton to meet the next container. So many delays. The latest is the container train could not cross Germany due to the flooded railway. But finally in August 4 more Merlins will arrive. And one will leave the nest as it was just finished and awaits the airworthiness inspection.
Finished Merlin above. Finally restaurants are open in Prague. View of the Powder Tower.
In no particular order:
VTWIN NEWS: Plenty of news here. Vtwin engine mount went through a few revisions and is now set. Cowl design is done and mold is already under construction. Firewall forward package will be completed by the end of August and the first batch of packages should be shipped by the end of September.
Photos: Vtwin being installed to a Merlin. Images of the cowl design. Images of the cowl mold and parts of the mold already cut. Our first real batch of 20 Vtwins will be produced to our specifications in the next few days.
This image is of the updated BRS installation. New bridle covers are designed and the mold is being prepared.
I flew ultralights on floats in the early 1980s. Soon I will get to do it again. The floats I produced a few years ago are now digitalized and prepared for 3D matched-hole production. Expected weight: 30 lbs each! Part 103 legal!
ELETROLITE: While in the Czech Republic I met with a leading producer of electric power systems for aircraft. We have agreed to make the installation on the Merlin Lite as it is a perfect aircraft to fly with electric power. Light with a long wing. Nearly a self-launching motorglider. In fact it does meet the official definition of a self-launching glider which opens up another market that does not require a medical.
Watch this space for a viable electric powered floatplane!
OSHKOSH: I am packing for Oshkosh now and driving up tomorrow. Another big show, but this year a lot of people are expecting record attendance after being cooped up so long. Come visit! Booth 195.
And you will see our new DEP-OD. Download our new brochure to see what that is!
But these things take a while. Design, parts fabrication, assembly, fine tuning, shipping, more assembly, installation….
I really love precision matched-hole technology. Rivets mostly just drop into place. The wing spar bolts fit perfectly. Ailerons and flaps connect nearly perfect. I did have to fabricate new flap actuator arms as these huge 3-hinge flaps call for bigger rod ends and push rods.
Have a look:
Drum roll: Hangar roll out – Dayton, Ohio
This is one beautiful wing.
Huge 3-hinge slotted flap. This flap is longer than the Merlin wing! No problem to meet the Part 103 minimum speed.
Note the two pitot tubes. Top one is for the EFIS. Bottom one is angled down to be more accurate at high angles of attack and is plumbed to the more sensitive analog ASI. Panel photo shows temporary mounting of the analog ASI for the flight test program.
Clarifications for my other reader:
There will not be a cowl on this prototype. The production Merlin Lite has the Polini 303DS and is tricycle gear and slightly different engine position. The production Merlin Lite has a cowl. The design is already finished.
Initially, all Merlin Lites will be tricycle.
Straight floats will be built later this year. I have built many sets in the past. They weigh only 30 lbs. each and fit the Part 103 rule. With the long wing the Merlin Lite will be EXCELLENT on floats! I already bought the wind sock for my seaplane base.
We are already planning the electric-powered version of the Merlin Lite. And yes, there will be an electric Merlin Lite floatplane.
I will post videos of the flight tests but it will be a while before I will have time to edit all the footage and make a proper video. I suppose I could post some stills to show it does fly. Watch this space.
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As we progress with the Merlin Lite development we will be collecting data for our ‘self-certification’ documentation. The Part 103 rules are pretty simple. Stall speed, top speed, single-seat, 5 gallons fuel maximum and 278 lbs empty with a rescue chute. Of course we will be conducting a lot more tests than that to be sure we have a structurally sound aircraft with no untoward flight characteristics.
On that note I have been flying between thunderstorms. I made some selfie videos and finally asked a professional to make proper edits so I don’t torture my 13 followers more than I already do. But now we wait for someone else to do their work…..
We obtained one scruffy bit of paper yesterday with an official DAR weighing with certified scales.
Our prototype Merlin Lite is legal at 271 lbs. The fuel was drained but perhaps one pound of unusable fuel remained in the tank and lines.
Recall that this weight INCLUDES hydraulic brakes, EFIS, EMS, windows, windscreen, electric trim, 3-blade prop, liquid-cooled Polini 250DS engine, large tires, and fuel system with fuel sender.
When we have the production Merlin we will be adding the extra weight of the long wings, cowl, and the tricycle gear. And subtracting some weight from the main gear leg, removing the two top windows, and cutting a few pounds from the engine mount. Plus the new Polini 303DS is 2 kg lighter than the 250DS.
As we finalize options we will post the cost and weight of each item. I know from the DAR who has weighed a few ultralights, and from other ultralight manufactures that most ultralights are over the limit. I also am sure that some of our customers will order options like painting, cabin heat, spinner, 2nd fuel tank, and autopilot. I don’t think they have much risk of a a FAA ramp check as they won’t be on ramps, and the FAA does not carry scales with them. They might check more obvious items like the number of seats and fuel capacity.
As long as it looks like a duck and flys like a duck it must be a duck…..
Next week I return to Dayton to begin flight tests with the new wing. I am sure about our stall speed compliance. It will be fun to document it. I have a few Garmin VIRB cameras with telemetry built in plus a purchased a second ASI that should read lower airspeeds than the EFIS. And a 2nd pitot tube that I will mount more directly in line with the airflow at high angles of attack. All this should make for some entertaining video clips. And more scruffy bits of paper for my compliance file.
We remain on track to offer an electric Merlin Lite before the end of 2021. Plus the design of the 750 straight floats for the Merlin Lite are finished and the floats will be manufactured later this year. The long wing electric Merlin Lite on floats is on my wish list.
In other news the VTWIN project rolls along. We have secured our own production run of engine made to our specifications. A significant number of Vtwin engines will arrive around the end of July. Reduction drives and matching propellers are also in production.
The installation to the Merlin moves forward with the engine mount, exhaust, cooling system, and cowl pretty much done. The mold for the cowl is now commissioned. We expect to have cowls from the new mold by the end of July. Here are some VTWIN images:
Oshkosh approaches and, if Sun N Fun was any indication, Oshkosh will be a big event this year! We will have the prototype Merlin Lite there and a Merlin, and a Merlin kit with a VTWIN and maybe a couple of surprises. I am not making any promises just yet as not everything gets done in time especially with all the COVID excuses. I can’t even rely on freight companies and will drive the Merlin Lite to Dayton and then Oshkosh myself.
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In my 41 years in aviation I have seen a lot of failures, and learned from them (I hope). One of the most famous ones is the Bede 5 with thousands sold with no suitable engine forthcoming. The Merlin has had plenty of good engine choices. Until HKS stopped production and Rotax plans to discontinue the 582. Hence our efforts beginning about 2 years ago to source or develop a 4-stroke alternative. And it wasn’t easy. But Aeromarine has an extensive and worldwide network of resources and we were able to secure a custom-built engine to our specifications direct from the factory in China. And have a reduction drive built to our specs to match this engine from India. Then have a computer-matched 3-blade carbon ground-adjustable prop with spinner designed and made for us specific to the Merlin’s speeds and this engines’ torque curve from Slovakia. All integrated to our Merlin made in the Czech Republic.
Nearly every customer with a new Merlin order has placed their faith in our experience and abilities to complete this project with the results of a new, very modern and reliable and even inexpensive 4-stroke powerplant perfect for the Merlin. And quite a few new customers have stepped up and placed their order knowing we have not even flown this Vtwin on the Merlin yet and have not even finished the installation.
And I do not intend to let them down.
I have seen a lot of new aircraft designs come on the market over the years and am quite sure that their likely-hood of long-term success is inversely proportional to their advertising budget. Am I right? I think so. There is another new LSA on the market last year with a huge advertising budget. Who wants to bet they are in business a year or so from now?
That being said, Aeromarine spends its marketing budget on getting things done in the shop. And right now the two big priorities are to build Merlin Lites and to finish the Vtwin installation to the Merlin within the next month. And we are on track to do so. Here is how it will look:
The design work is mostly done now and we are busy making the actual installation to a finished Merlin kit. The cowl mold will be cut and all the bits and pieces fitted perfectly. Then we flight test. Then we ship these firewall forward packages out to Merlin builders.
As this is a short blog I will share these photos of a finished and painted Merlin shipping soon for your viewing pleasure.
Another container of Merlins ships in a week or so. Container #3 is almost full.
Guess I am not the only one that flys a single-seat aircraft for the quality of the social experience.
Well not really, I was in Prague Sunday morning and playing hockey in Tampa Sunday evening. Had to plan that flight carefully. Not like the flight to Prague. I was all prepared with a negative test plus positive for anti-bodies inside the 72 hour window the Czechs mandated. But I was not allowed to board the aircraft in Tampa because of my 45 minutes layover in Frankfurt and their specs are 48 hours. My test was a day too old and the Tampa airport testing site closed 20 minutes before I got there. Entire trip cancelled. Rebooked for later in the day after chasing to a quick off-airport test then routing through Amsterdam.
Finally arrived to Prague with my “OFFICIAL” letter from my dentist requiring an urgent cleaning. Then off to Olomouc to visit Tech Pro and inspect the next container of aircraft already nearly ready to ship.
The Czech Republic partially opened up in December and everyone went to the pub then to grandmother’s house for Christmas carp. The result was the virus when viral with 10x greater infection rate than the rest of the EU. I was there in January and the lockdown had just started. This May trip was even tighter locked down. Need to know where you can buy a beer through a window and drink it in an empty garage. Modern Speakeasy. Note the lack of tourists. The hotel I stayed in had not seen a USA passport in a year.
On to airplane business:
The Vtwin installation to the Merlin is moving ahead on track and should be done and ready for flights in a month.
We have pulled a finished Merlin from the supply chain to make this installation. The exhaust is being fabricated now. Fuel system is pretty much done. Cooling is a Rotax 912-sized radiator. All getting mounted up then the cowl mold will be cut.
Merlins: Container #2 for 2021 is just about ready. Some final installations and it will ship in about a week.
Some samples from the next container of quick-build kits.
Merlin Lite: The Merlin Lite design changed so much from the prototype that it is nearly a new aircraft. Tricycle gear, longer wing, all push-rod controls, more leg room. Now parts are being fabricated. It is a huge push to finish the first Merlin by about the 15th of June to ship in time for the Oshkosh show. But we are going to try. The paint can dry in the container.
Not much to show but I did manage to bring the new long wing wing tips with me carry-on. 2 of the new Polini 303DS engines are in transit to Tech Pro.
Next week I will go to Dayton to complete some tests in our lab then crate and ship to Florida for the flight testing finally!
4 Covid tests in 10 days plus positive for anti-bodies. I think I am safe. For now.
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Finally. Good timing too, right after SNF show. I was able to get up to Dayton to meet and unload the container and get the kit deliveries started.
It was a real challenge to get this container shipped. The container ships were full. Then the dock workers were overload or understaffed or just plain Covid worn out. Once the container arrived to USA I expected more of the same. Delays at Newark off loading then delays to the train. Then delays at customs. Then delays on truck from Columbus to Dayton. I was really surprised the USA side of this shipment went flawless and quick and exactly as quoted. Shocking.
Unloading the container and filling the hangar. And I know NOTHING about the Czech beer we found by accident. But there might be a pattern….
And here they go to points all over!
Some big news for those Merlin Lite followers/customers: The new long wing arrived and it is perfect!
The wings are now in our Dayton R&D lab and will remain there a couple weeks for testing before shipping to Florida for installation to the Merlin Lite prototype and finally some fun flight testing! That new flap is longer than the Merlin wing!
Also arriving over SNF were 5 more reduction drives for the Vtwin program. There is huge interest and many orders for this new engine. Big gap to fill with HKS out and the 582 being 2-stroke and pending discontinuation by Rotax. Now we have the fuel system, cooling system, exhaust, and redrive all sorted.
Now I am back in Florida. Barely. Couple days after I left Florida last week my daughter Lilly tested positive for Covid. So I had direct Covid exposure before I flew up to Dayton. Try to follow this story. There will be a quiz later:
I had Covid really bad in November/December. I figured I am good now full of anti-bodies. Wrong. After 3-4 months the antibodies wimp out. So maybe I could have caught it from Lilly before I left for Dayton? Better check. Tuesday I subjected my finger to a pin prick and tested for antibodies. And I had two. Meaning lgG and lgM antibodies. WTH? Turns out there are short-term and long-term antibodies. But not long long term antibodies. Bottom line is my November antibodies were gone and I had Covid between 2 and 4 weeks ago. Again. And I didn’t even know it.
My Wife was really sick about a month ago and had a lot of Covid symptoms but tested negative. We are convinced she had Covid. And passed it to me. And although I thought I was exposed to Lilly’s Covid I probably gave it to her. It explains the gap between Jana’s and Lilly’s Covid.
So now what? I need to meet colleagues at our lab. I need to fly back to Florida. I need to play hockey. I don’t need to be a super spreader. So I got tested. Again. Negative. Oh the drama.
My girls are OK!
Oh forgot, this is an airplane blog. So Monday I fly to the Czech Republic to inspect container #2, to check on Vtwin to Merlin installation to check on Merlin Lite production, and to plan deliveries for all the new orders from SNF and after.
But of course there will be more Covid drama with the Czech still mostly locked down. Good thing for the ‘official’ letter I have from my dentist requiring my travel for an urgent and vital teeth cleaning.
Next report from Olomouc!
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I am conflicted. 6 day air shows in the Florida heat, wind, ants, and sun are a marathon. Plus I actually have to talk to people. Yet this year I was actually looking forward to the show. At least for one day. Would anyone show up? Would the mask police be out with batons? Would it rain like cow piss on a flat rock all week?
Apparently, the risk of sunburn was greater than COVID. I doubt too many people went home with sun tan lines outlining the face mask. The show felt pretty normal. I only saw one guy with a full HEPA/charcoal respirator. Pretty sure his mask outline will be permanent.
As usual, the show promotors claimed record numbers in attendance. Rubbish. But still good numbers and I am sure a qualified success. Our booth had steady traffic and huge interest in both Merlin aircraft and the Vtwin. Our message and offer of price vs. performance and value is gaining a lot of traction. We are filling containers as fast as we can now. And we have new orders from the show which is not how we judge show success but it sure helps.
So enough with the babble and on to content. MERLIN LITE NEWS:
CAD work is 98.72% finished and parts production has begun.
Assembly will begin in May. But I cannot say for sure when the first new Merlin Lites will be finished. I will go to CZ in a week or so to plan these details. I really need one shipped in June for the Oshkosh show but that will be tight.
The list of features the Merlin Lite has over most ultralights is already impressive. Add parking brake to it.
Ignore the wheel pants. We are not going for speed in an ultralight. Although they can be added for looks if anyone wants.
Ignore the 2nd wing tank. The wing is built for two tanks but one will be just a wing nose skin cover. For those who need 8 hours endurance the wing tank can be added but it will put the aircraft outside of the Part 103 limits.
The new wing with the huge flaps is already finished and shipped. This Friday I fly to Dayton to meet the container of Merlins which also has this wing packed. We have some bench tests to conduct then I will ship the wing to Florida for installation and then flight tests on our Merlin Lite prototype. I have been preparing for accurate data collection with the purchase of dozens of cones and a long tape measure for runway marking and more Garmin Virbs for multiple video angles and telemetry data. This will be fun.
HKS is gone. Rotax plans to discontinue 582 production. The Vtwin has a big gap to fill and it will do it very well with such a modern and well-tested engine.
We had our first customer-installed Vtwin on display on a PPG trike. The customer has it running already. The reduction drive shipment arrived to Dayton during the show so no chance to have them on display. But soon we will be flying. Two Merlins have Vtwins in installation now for our testing and documentation. Fuel system, exhaust, engine mount, and cooling are mostly finished. Wiring harness in design. We may move to an electronic throttle.
Not shown is the racing muffler from motorcycles which attaches to the stainless steel exhaust tubes.
The Vtwin generated a LOT of interest at SNF with plenty of aircraft needing a 4-stroke 60hp engine.
I am really looking forward to Oshkosh. Kinda…….
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