Back to the New World

They let me back into USA. Shocking, I know. Back in Florida now after nearly 2 months in Europe. No idea where my luggage went. Same luggage was lost 5 days on the way to Spain. Now pushing 5 days back in USA and still not delivered. My plan was to go to Alabama right away to ship out parts. But those parts are in my luggage!

I expect the luggage to arrive today, then I will get over to M-Squared and get to work. Some of the work done or in progress:

  • A lot of design details on both the Merlin & Merlin Lite were discussed and sorted so it is now clear exactly what the production aircraft will be.
  • Merlin Lite production is now finally starting. One aircraft will be built to flying for the flight test program in CZ along with documentation and additional structural testing.
  • The next 4 Merlins ship the end of February. Painting has already begun.
  • The balance of the parts needed for the early customers and the build center are under construction.

Here is the mold for the top cowl modification. We needed bigger bubbles to provide fuel injector and cowling hose clearance.

This new brake plumbing simplifies installation. The reservoir is now in the cockpit and the parking brake in line with the brake tubing.

Here are the details of the new fuel panel from builder Don:

Fuel control is now a rotating knob. The CPU retains the auto fuel balance. Select time or fuel level and the CPU will switch tanks based on pre-programmed settings. Here is the description from Dr. Don:

The holes for the LEDs, Fuses, and the Rotary Switch are on mechanical layer #2.  The mounting holes are on the “multi-layer” layer…

There are:

  1. Four mounting holes for #6 screws.
  1. Six holes for the LEDs that are .200″ diameter.
  1. One hole for the rotary switch that is .250″ diameter.
  1. Two rectangular holes for the two fuses (remain unchanged).
  1. No toggle switches — all replaced by the single rotary switch.
  1. One USB connector and related components that are only going to be populated on a couple of these boards for testing and for use later if needed.  I’m assuming a sudo-linear slope from the fuel sending units. The customer units won’t have the USB connection components populated on the PCB unless absolutely necessary.

The adjustment/calibration of the fuel level is like this — It needs to be done in the following order:

  1. Set the “FULL” calibration by completely filling the respective fuel tank then adjusting the corresponding trim pot until the “FULL” LED illuminates.  The “FULL” LED must only illuminate when the tank is “full” or very-nearly “full”.
  1. Set the “EMPTY” calibration by completely draining the respective tank and then momentarily shorting the corresponding “EMPTY SET” pad to ground.  The “EMPTY” LED should then only illuminate when the tank is “empty” or very-nearly “empty”.

I’ve included several fuel sampling “Test Points” on the circuit board to facilitate troubleshooting (if necessary).

The overall board size is smaller than before — now 3.525″ wide by 3.650″ tall.

The rotary switch is 60 degree indexed, and the corresponding functions are shown on the top layer silkscreen.  Here is how it functions:

Whenever the “MASTER” switch is “ON”, the microprocessor is powered and the “POWER” and “HEARTBEAT” LEDs will operate.  The rotary switch operates like this:

“OFF” is precisely that — Both tanks (pumps) are “OFF”

“LEFT” — Left tank (pump) is manually commanded “ON”.  The Left pump is powered and LED (DS2) illuminates, and the “MANUAL” LED (DS6) illuminates.

“BOTH” — Left AND Right manually commended “ON”.  The Left and Right pumps are powered and LEDs DS2, DS4, and “MANUAL LED (DS6) illuminate.

“RIGHT” — RIGHT is manually commanded “ON”.  The Right pump is powered and LED (DS5) illuminates, and the “MANUAL” LED (DS6) illuminates.

“TIMER” — “AUTO” LED (DS5) illuminates and the microprocessor toggles between the Left and Right tanks at whatever interval we want (presently set to 10 minutes).  The corresponding tank’s LED illuminates.

“BALANCE” — “AUTO” LED (DS5) illuminates and the microprocessor toggles between the Left and Right tanks, selecting to feed from the “most full” tank.  The tanks will toggle when the feeding tank is about half gallon below the non-feeding tank.

In either of the “AUTO” modes (“TIMER” or “BALANCE”), if both tanks are below a specific (yet to be determined appropriate) fuel quantity, the microprocessor will feed from “BOTH” tanks, in order to maximize the amount of usable fuel / prevent fuel starvation.

In all instances (except “OFF”), there will be about a 2-Second delay before switching “OFF” either tank (pump).  This should ensure that either pump coming on-line will have developed sufficient fuel pressure before switching off the previously-feeding tank.

When selecting “OFF”, the microprocessor will immediately kill power to the fuel pumps.

When switching from “OFF” to either “LEFT”, “BOTH”, or “RIGHT”, those respective pumps will power “ON” immediately (no 2-Second delay).

The rotary switch has a hard mechanical stop.  “OFF” is always at the Counter-Clockwise limit of rotation.  One can’t rotate the switch Clockwise to go from “BALANCE” to “OFF”, etc.

Don

_________________________________________________

That is a pretty sophisticated fuel control for anything smaller than a business jet.

There are three more chapters to the fuel story.

The avionics tray is now installed into the Merlin. The avionics components have new positions centered behind the instrument panel. The components are connected to the wiring harness with circuit boards, The components are bolted onto the avionics tray with pre-installed rivenuts. The left-side main circuit board and the EFIS are shifted to the right about 3/4 inch. This provides space for headset jacks on the panel’s left side.

The instrument panel itself is slightly smaller due to its relocation for greater leg room.

Now we have a new fuel circuit board, and that CAD data has been sent to TPA to cut new panels.

We have ordered 50 fuel tank pump assemblies. These pumps will be mounted to the new fuel tank side access panel. We are working on the protocol for the retrofit of this new fuel pump system. When finished, TPA will ship 16 sets to USA for distribution to those who would like to upgrade.

TRUELITE UPDATE:

And here we have the new long wing with slotted flaps installed on the TrueLite in Spain!!! And a look at the improved wing tip. Now just waiting on good flying weather for the test flights.

 

The TrueLite has electric flaps operating twin telefex cables. The control and flap indicator will be on the instrument panel. Come see this cool ultralight at Sun N Fun this April!!!

And yes, of course the wings still fold in under 2 minutes!

Been two months since I cut the grass. Back to work.

CHIP

Plenty of News From the Old World

Happy New Year!

I have been in Europe since Thanksgiving now. Working mostly on the Merlin, Merlin Lite, and Merlin II, with a visit to Spain to work on the TrueLite. Kinda looking forward to getting back to Florida for a bit of warmer weather. But I bought a one-way ticket here and am not leaving until my work plan is complete. That work includes refining the designs and making the build specifications perfect. Plus, getting a bunch of parts completed to get builders back on track to complete their aircraft. Then a return trip to Spain to fly the new TrueLite longer wing with flaps that I commissioned to fit Part 103. Here is a sample of some of the work-in-progress:

We have been flying the Merlin with the Vtwin for some time now with the dual fuel pump system mounted on the firewall. It is a serviceable system. And quite similar to the system Rotax and others use for EFI. But it never felt perfect. To me, it seemed convoluted. Fuel hoses from twin tanks to a duplex electronic fuel selector valve, then to two fuel pumps, then to a pressure regulator and fuel filter then splitting again to the EFI rail, plus, 2 lines back to the fuel selector then back to the fuel tanks. We built a circuit board to control the valve and pumps and programmed to automatically switch fuel tanks based on user-selected time or fuel consumption.

This was a lot of work. We should be satisfied with it. But I am not. There had to be a better way. Builder and colleague Ben took a hard look at the way ATVs manage their fuel and found a way to make it work for the Merlin.

This one pump system has everything integrated. High-pressure fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator, fuel filter, and fuel level sensor. It is built to be installed inside the fuel tank. This means that the pump can be much lighter as the fuel to cool the pump is already circulating around the pump. It also means that a fuel return line is not required. Excess fuel from the pressure regulator stays in the tank. No separate fuel filter is required. Same for fuel level sender. This is fantastic! And when we install one in each wing fuel tank, we have redundancy. Plus, all we have to do is turn on or off a fuel pump to switch tanks.

So, how do we make it work for the Merlin tanks?

Here you have it. We dismantle the fuel pump to allow it to fit inside our fuel tank. Then design a mounting bracket to hold it to the fuel tank bottom. Then attach to a side plate for installation, and removal for service, and for the fuel line, power lines, and for sender lines to egress. Then a quick disconnect for easy wing removal.

Currently, Builder Don is redesigning the fuel control circuit board. It will now have a big electronic rotary switch with 5 positions: Off, Left, Right, Both, and Auto positions. And we will make new instrument panels to accommodate this new circuit board with laser-etched labels. Next step will be to design and fabricate a fuel system upgrade kit.

Fuel system side mount prepared in wing tank.

Some of the Merlin changes include a repositioning of the instrument panel so it is slightly smaller. And the avionics tray has a reinforcement stringer, so the avionics are now repositioned. The control circuit board and EFIS are shifted a bit to the right to create room for the headset jacks on the panel. And the circuit board will now include a USB C post for phone charging.

We have the avionics tray and panel in the design office now to CAD up the exact positions so the tray will be pre-punched, and we can install rivenuts for quick and easy component installation. And the wiring harness lengths will then be adjusted to fit perfectly.

Moving on now to the battery. For weight and balance considerations we have moved the battery to the rear baggage bulkhead. For safety, and space, we designed a battery box that hinges on the bulkhead.

In this series of photos, you can see the battery box with built-in hinge and panel cover. The bulkhead has rivenuts to secure this box. The fuselage has plastic tubing routed all the way to the engine and solenoid for the battery cable. The rear fuselage now has two access panels for easy cable connection to the battery.

The cowl has been a big issue for us. You may have seen some of the modifications we have made along the way to get aircraft flying. Not all have been good. But now we are doing it right. We have made a new engine mount, radiator mount, exhaust mount, and component mount for the Vtwin. Now we know exactly how to make a new cowl to fit. Here is how we are calculating the size of the fuel injector bubbles to have adequate clearance. We have to be careful not to have any interference with the injector wires.

We also plan to design an access door for the oil dip stick access. But first we have to redesign the dip stick a bit to clear the engine bracket.

 

Oil dip stick in progress. Plus, new mounting of engine ECU and voltage regulator.

Next step is the cabin heat cuff and system.

Here you can see the new cuff which will have an air feed from the front cowl below the radiator. Then scat tube connect to a butterfly valve on the firewall center to warm your junk.

Now the cooling system hoses are being 3D modelled so we can send the send out for fabrication for a quick and perfect hose installation.

The cabin air and defrost system will be a separate system from a NACA vent on the fuselage side to the defrost eyeball vent.

A Prague Christmas. Carp for sale on every corner! I pass. And a few days skiing with Davi.

Now back to work, and for Davi, school.

CHIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

DATA DUMP POST

I moved from Aviad in Spain to Tech Pro Aviation in Olomouc, Czech Republic. I have a ton of work to do here as usual as I work side-by-side with Martin on a long topic list. For example:

  • Controlling the next 3 containers of Merlin’s for shipment.
  • Sorting painting specs for next aircraft shipment.
  • Checking 750 and 1450 float production.
  • Working on Vtwin and avionics installation.
  • Making plan to double or triple aircraft production.
  • Working on electric power system for TrueLite and Merlin Lite.
  • Making plan for Merlin Lite testing and compliance documents.
  • Strategic plan for MOSAIC aircraft.

That is just a partial list. I am here until my work is done, but I sure miss Florida weather.

It only snowed twice this week. Once for 3 days and once for 4 days.

I will have a lot to show and report on over the next few weeks of work here. To keep up I will try to post more often. Here is a big post, but mostly photos and in random order.

Here are the 750 float side skins. To build a tool to press the curve into the skins could cost some $2,000. Martin designed a rolling/pressing tool using steel bar and hard-pressed wood to make the same curve but for a cost closer to $200. These skins along with the bulkheads and all the other parts are epoxy-primed on the interior sides. The parts kits will be sent to Paul at M-Squared for assembly. Parts kits take about 10% of the shipping space of assembled floats. And I like to dump more work on Paul…..

Continuing with 1450 floats:

The bigger amphibious floats have many interesting upgrades including a servo to control the water rudders. That saves a lot of rigging. And new hydraulics. More on this later. And Beringer wheels & brakes with improved geometry. Will probably have to write more on floats later.

I often get asked when we will have the Merlin II ready. The answer is about 6 years ago. The Merlin II has been flying and in production for a long time. I just do not promote it in USA as I think 165 of 2-seat LSA models kinda fills the market considering only about 200 are sold each year. Here is a new Merlin II with a Rotax engine mount ready to ship. We offer the Merlin II with yoke or stick control.

Plus, we have the nice Merlin II demo available if someone wanted a Merlin II quickly and at a good price.

Demo Merlin II with Rotax 912 installed.

And for the Merlin Lite fans, here we have a set of short wings getting prepped for painting. They will ship to USA in the next container and be on display at SNF. Now I have to choose to show the Merlin Lite with the long wings or short wings at SNF. One wing set will be on display, the other installed. Or maybe I install one of each on the display Merlin Lite. I wonder if anyone will notice? Or ask if we install to opposite sides for flying in the southern hemisphere? I am not sure I will do this. But it might be fun. Just won’t be doing any flight demos.

Here is one major change that my tall Merlin customers will appreciate. The instrument panel and bulkhead are moved up. I took a photo sitting in the exact same position in a HKS and a Vtwin Merlin. You can see the knee room has nearly doubled. I measured 16cm vs. 12cm. Plus, the firewall shelf and cavity for the Rotax 582 starter motor are gone. This means those pilots with big feet have a lot more toe room as well.

Here are 3 changes on the tail:

  • The horizontal stabilizer installation is changed to the method I used on the SportCruiser: 2 pins for the front then 2 bolts laterally for the rear. That makes installation about 200 times easier.
  • The rudder cables are slightly repositioned and with bigger exit failings.
  • The vertical stabilizer fairing is now taller for increased yaw stability.

Plenty more to show but I need to get back to work!

BTW, I get to visit my son, Davi, in Prague on the weekends. I try not to distract him during exam time, but everyone needs a break once in a while. He is halfway through an electrical engineering/computer science degree.

CHIP

‘BOUT TIME POST

Some customers claim that I have been slow to deliver. And they would be right. Some claim not only have I been slow but ridiculously and unacceptable slow. They are also right. And the ones that are not claiming that I have been slow are most certainly thinking about it.

I am sure at least a few customers think I have been a jerk. They also would be right.

As a matter of principle, I have always responded to every inquiry about delivery terms. Until just recently, when I ignored some texts as I had nothing new to report and I was a bit frustrated. Hence the jerk mode.

So Whisky Tango Foxtrot?

I believe the Merlin is an exceptional aircraft that fits the needs of many pilots, especially being $100k cheaper than 2-seat LSA aircraft. The Merlin needs to be on the market and available. And it was. But then HKS stopped production. As did Rotax with the 582 however, that engine, although perfect for the Merlin, was not so popular in the USA as it is a 2-stroke.

So, in the interest of keeping the Merlin on the market we came up with the V-Twin idear (redneck for idea). Which, in principle, is an excellent idear and someone should have done it years ago. But no one did. So, I stepped out of my comfort and skill zone and, reluctantly, got into the engine business. It should come as no surprise that I greatly underestimated the effort it would take. Yet I was still surprised.

Those following these efforts know that we have accomplished quite a bit:

  • The engine is custom-built to our specs.
  • Custom radiator, pressure tanks, and molded tubes.
  • Custom fuel system with fuel return
  • Proprietary circuit boards for avionics, engine, and fuel control.
  • Custom wiring harness.
  • Custom reduction drive.
  • Plus, engine mount, exhaust, cowl, and propeller.

But there were issues, some bigger than others.

  • We re-designed the reduction drive with an added bearing.
  • We re-worked the radiator and molded hoses for a better fit.
  • The cowl needed work to eliminate interference with the injectors and one cooling hose.
  • The circuit boards needed revisions.
  • The fuel system is a work-in-progress.
  • The wiring harness had to be designed, tested, then manufactured, and tested again.

When I had an aircraft factory with 250 employees, including a room full of engineers these issues did not take so long to resolve. Now I am mostly by myself and relying on my friends and associates to help when they are not sorting their own work. Not making excuses, just observations.

With the new association with M-Squared in Alabama the build center was just about to ready to ireally get going. However, the Vtwin was not yet ready for prime time. And we didn’t know why. I could fly the Merlin but the engine starting and idling was rough. Not how it should be. We have been trying to sort this for some time. I have been doing test flights but never comfortable with the engine. Bottom line is just that. If I do not truly trust the engine then I am not shipping aircraft. Of course, the planned cash flow budget got torpedoed. But that is my problem.

To figure out what was going on as quickly as possible we built a test stand in Alabama and another in Dayton, Ohio and solicited outside ATV engine experts for support. Why would the engine run well except at low RPMs? We spent a lot of time unwinding and tracing the wiring harness and it appeared to be correct every time.

It took until this week to figure it out! It was Hall of Famer Paul Mather and his team that found the eureka moment. The fuel injectors were getting only 2.4 volts power. They are designed for 13v which we have measured and confirmed in the system and panel and avionics. But way too low at the injectors. Why?

One 4-pin plug was wired in reverse! Simple fix. Engine runs great.

It just took forever to find this. And we are still not sure if the wiring diagram is wrong or the plugs were wiring incorrectly, or just upside down. Does not matter who gets thrown under the bus, it matters that we found and fixed it.

Now we are running the test engine for a few hours for control. We acquired a pin remover tool and will correct all our harnesses. Then we will install and test on two Merlins, one in Dayton and the other in our M-Squared build center. Then more ground testing, then flight testing with 2 Merlins.

And then we are back in the build business. Deliveries to follow. I choose to live with the stress of late deliveries as it is infinitely better than living with delivering a product that hurt or killed someone. I trust you understand.

I am writing this blog now on a long flight from Florida to Barcelona. While Paul continues the Vtwin work I will work side-by-side with Francesco to build the new TrueLite version. I will fly his original prototype then help manufacture the new wing which I commissioned to fit Part 103. A bit longer, wing tips, and flaps included.

I have stuck my nose into Francesco’s design and made a few requests. The wing is longer, has nice wing tips, and electric flaps. This will add a few kg but still under the Part 103 limits and now will mee the Part 103 stall speed. And, IMHO, look nicer and fly better.

So now I have parked my butt in Francesco’s workshop in some little village in Spain for the next week or so. We will build, install, and fly the new wing. Time to get my hands dirty.

Here was my Thanksgiving turkey dinner as I was flying yesterday over the pond:

Clearly, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Europe, except maybe the Brits who were glad to get rid of the pilgrim traitors. Someday ask me about John Alden.

A T-storm over Charolotte forced a ground stop which meant I missed my flight to London. I was lucky to get a later flight out of New York so my travel which still has not ended is Flight Tampa-Charlotte-New York-London, Barcelona then bus to the train to Girona and Francesco’s van to some small village where he chose to set up shop for unknown reasons.

No clue where my luggage went.

I brought my Garmin Virb to capture more video for you viewing pleasure.

The next stop after Spain will be the Czech Republic. The priority is collecting the missing parts builders have been waiting forever for. I will not leave CZ until I have them!

Second priority is inspecting and controlling the next two containers about ready to ship. The timing is not too bad as Paul now can finish the Merlins he has in the build program and make room for the next batch. Plus, one container with 2 Merlins and a Merlin II is about ready to ship to New Zealand.

After that work will be a hard discussion with TPA for the Merlin Lite production. This aircraft is truly exceptional and will be a big market success IMHO. The long wing is a pretty good motor-glider and provides a means for pilots who have ben denied a medical to get back in the air. And the short wing Merlin Lite is a super Part 103 ultralight. We already have lots of orders. The plan is to increase production very significantly by creating an assembly line in Alabama. We just need to get the parts.

Then I need to get the electric power system sorted. An electric-powered long-wing Merlin Lite (The Electrolite) might be a game-changing aircraft. TPA has some expertise in this technology.

The goal is to get all this work finished before the Christmas break. BTW, this was not an easy blog to write. But that is also my problem.

Cheers,
CHIP

What’s Up Post

A few of my 15 followers have noticed I have not blogged in a while, and they are anxious for news. I have not posted in some time as I am busy making the news to write about. And I usually like to have something significant to write about when I post a new blog. But today, the big news is I am still here busting butt to get aircraft finished and delivered. The last few weeks have been spent in Alabama and Ohio working on the Vtwin installation and getting firewall forward parts sorted. I will write some highlights as I think of them.

The new engine wiring harnesses arrived. Plenty for everybody. We unwound one and traced each wire back to the plug pin number to confirm it is prepared correctly and they are.

Wiring harness in stock!

The reduction drive upgrade parts are also in stock. I have started to ship firewall forward parts out now. But slowly, as I would really like to make the shipments complete. Not quite there yet. As Paul and I work through customer builds we update the working document for the BOM and for the photo guide assembly manual. Anyone wants a draft just e-mail me.

Here is a Vtwin mounted on a test stand in Alabama. We did mount and run a Vtwin some time ago in Dayton. Now we think we can improve our installation with some ECU fine-tuning so we mounted up an engine just as it would be on a Merlin.

Here we have plumbed in a fuel pressure gauge and amp meter to confirm these parameters are in spec.

We are also experimenting with an in-tank fuel pump. Bench testing is promising.

Oh, and 15 instrument panels are finished and shipped to AL. MGL water-jetted the panel then powder-coated them. Then laser-engraved the labels and N numbers for those customers that have N numbers reserved.

News from CZ: The next 7 Merlins and one Merlin II are nearing completion. The Merlin II is already in the paint booth.

Merlin II in the paint booth.

We are flying the Merlin Lite in Alabama now. I will ask Paul to write a flight review so you can hear how great it is from someone less biased than me. I know he likes it. And he is not used to the long glide when power is pulled. We did discover that a mag sensor mount was out of spec by 1/10th of a millimeter. Polini sent us new spacers and now the engine starts perfectly.

My next trip is:

  • The CZ to inspect the next two or three containers of aircraft getting ready to ship. And to make sure TPA has completed my parts order. Some parts for the firewall forward package come from TPA so I will make sure to get them so everyone can get on with their builds.
  • Next stop will be Spain to fly the TrueLite and to nail down delivery of the first kits.
  • Then to India to install floats to a CH601 and fly it.
  • And a quick stop in Myanmar to visit an aviation friend and kind of accomplice in aviation endeavors.
  • And finally, to the Philippines to finish and fly a Merlin there. And help out with a couple M-Squared aircraft that happen to be at the same airpark.

The trip might not be in that exact order. Depends on if I head east or west leaving Tampa. Another time round the world.

Nearly forgot, Builder Don got his wings installed and HKS engine started! Another Merlin will be flying in Dayton soon! Pictured above: Ben, Don, Chip & Ron.

Oh, BTW, I also am expecting 2 more patents this year in the electric aviation field. Patents starting to stack up with four total. More on that later. Some of this work directly helps the Electrolite project. Personally, I think the Electrolite will be a big success.

And, in my spare time, like there is any, I have submitted 3 of 4 proposals for military projects. One to NASA, one to the Navy, and one to the Air Force with a second one for the Air Force in preparation. The topics generally revolve around the technologies in my wheelhouse like the Hyper-STOL aircraft, and amphibious version, and hybrid propulsion systems. I included an autonomous air-to-air refueling technology just for a teaser. This military work helps fund the Merlin R&D and production so winning an award is a good thing for Aeromarine and our customers.

Cheers,

CHIP

Quick Update

Waiting on the new engine harnesses to arrive. 20 being made up now. Last big item to get. Next time I am in our Alabama build center I plan to box and ship stuff to builders.

The interest in a long wing Merlin continues. However, I am not starting any more projects until we get the Merlin and Merlin Lite orders filled.

But just for a tease:

I sketched these images out some time ago. Maybe it is a good idea? Electrolite first. then maybe Merlin and Merlin Lite folding wings.

The new redrive backplates are finished and in stock. Nicely anodized too.

Merlin Lite #2 is flying in Alabama. It will be N-numbered as a motor-glider.

Here is another irritating sideways video for you. From my phone. And too short to bother editing.

I did try a dead stick landing. Was really strange because after I shut the engine off and the tach read 000 the prop was still really spinning. The clutch is interesting.

Finally, home after a month of driving. Finished a proposal for the Hyper-STOL amphib for the Navy and the parallel hybrid system for NASA.

Dat’s it for now.

CWE

Oshkosh: Year 43 for me and Year 1 for Davi

Here is a Vblog from Oshkosh. Skip to 8:50 to see the Aeromarine display.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuKyTe3dtKk

We were missing a few bits and pieces for our booth including the RV that I booked in April that cancelled the day before the show started. Good thing for tents and thanks to M-Squared for allowing squatters on his site. And also, for Paul Squared for taking Davi on his first Oshkosh flight in the M-Squared demo aircraft.

This was my 43rd Oshkosh and Davi’s 1st.

Showed him where the best coffee and snacks are….

This perfect Grumman Albatross happened to be anchored off the dock on Lake Winnebago. Davi scored a tour.

Today is the last day and I am hitting the road early tomorrow to get back to work:

Stop 1: Visit the first Merlin Lite in Illinois.

Stop 2: Dayton to finish a Merlin build there and to complete and submit a proposal to the Navy for the amphibious hyper-STOL aircraft.

Stop 3: Working my way south to Georgia to fly the Merlin with the Vtwin with a customer.

Stop 4: Pee and coffee break.

Stop 5: Mobile, AL to work with Paul on the next Merlin build and to prepare shipments to customers waiting forever for their firewall forward parts. More inventory has arrived so the shelves will be mostly stocked.

New reduction drive backplates are being anodized and will ship soon. Bearings in stock.

The first two avionics wiring harness are in hand and will be installed when I arrive.

The Vtwin engine wiring harness has been reworked and shipped to China. They have it now and are making up 20 sets.

Finish and post the FF PKG packing list and assembly manual. BTW, I plan to rework the builders’ page soon and upload all the current documents and manuals for easy access. Read more

Bonus History Blog

Back when I had more hair and less sense.

 

Around 1981 I had a Tomcat ultralight. I made several innovations such as flying on floats. And I believe was the only ultralight with the Cuyuna engine with electric start. Cuyuna was not available with electric start so we made our own. We thought it was pretty cool.

One fine spring day I was flying ‘cross country’ from Oconomowoc, WI to Aeropark, near Milwaukee, the home of EAA Ultralight Chapter 1. I had climbed exceptionally high that day to a whopping 500 feet.

In my infinite wisdom all too common with our young group of ultralight pilots, I decided to turn off the engine and glide for a while. I wonder now what I was thinking on how far I was going to glide in a 1980s ultralight from 500 feet. But I had electric start so no big deal. Easy to restart. I glided for maybe 10-15 seconds then hit the red push to start button no doubt acquired from Radio Shack. The Cuyuna turned over just fine but, as 2-strokes often do, loaded up and wouldn’t start. I held that button down until my knuckle went white, and the battery died. Back then 2-strokes stopped stroking often enough by themselves without any help from the dufuss pilot.

So, technically, maybe I was the first to ‘fly’ and ultralight on electric power? Turning the prop had to generate some thrust…..

I happen to be over Okauchee Lake which was still about half frozen over. I basically landed on an iceberg a hundred yards or so from shore. No problem I thought. I will just give the rope starter a pull and take off from the slab of ice I found myself on. Snap, the rope broke first pull.

Now I was out of options but eventually the ice slab with me on it drifted to shore. There happen to be a guy working on his car in his back yard. I asked him for a jump, and he complied. I thanked him in advance and told him once this sucker starts, I am gone like it or not. The jumper cables will pull off. Ultralights back then had only Flintstone brakes (my Sorel boots) and they are not effective on ice!

The Cuyuna really spun up and started fine with a full-size car battery and off I went heading toward open water. I did manage to take off and complete my cross country to Aeropark, which I believe is now a subdivision.

Some of us proved Darwin was wrong and lived through our misguided youth…..

CHIP W ERWIN

 

 

Too Busy to Blog!

That just means more to talk about when I do get a chance to write.

The problem is I hafta drive this trip. A lot. And I don’t get much else done when driving 8+ hours/day. Hard to type and drive…. Worse than texting. Some lady almost hit me while she was texting. I nearly dropped my cheeseburger and spilt my coffee!

First leg was 8 hours Tampa to our Mobile build center. Drove that on the 4th so I could start work early on the 5th. If there were any fireworks nearby, I sleep through them. Just don’t snore in my RV.

Waiting for me in Mobile was a finished Merlin with a Vtwin. I flew it right away. Nice high cruise at 122 mph true airspeed.

I made a short video while flying. The audio sucks. I will keep experimenting.

We reworked the top cowl to increase the space for the injectors and coolant hose. Best not to have any interference there.

Between test flights I unpacked boxes of firewall forward components ordered from my last visit. The inventory is stacking up.

This week Paul and I started another Merlin Vtwin build. This time I was documenting every step with parts required, photos, and notes. We worked through the entire FF build, and it totals 34 steps. Most are quick and easy. The complete engine installation can be done in 2-3 days. We did most of it in 1-1/2 days. I should be writing up that manual and I would if I wasn’t busy blogging. But then I need to blog once in a while so everyone knows how much we are getting done. I look forward to finishing and posting the FF BOM and installation photos. BTW, the redrive upgrade is finished and components are arriving as I type. We even anodized the new backplate.

We made a short summary video which I will post on Youtube soon.

Builder Don created this condensed engine wiring harness diagram. We sent it off to China for fabrication. It just arrive to Dayton. So did I after another 8 hours wasted driving.

This is the plug & play harness. Takes just a few minutes to install. I just installed it today, but it needed a little fine-tuning on the lengths. Now yet another Merlin has a VTwin running in it! I will document the changes then have 50 harnesses made up.

Meanwhile, the panel harnesses have another upgrade. This one is pretty cool. Don added a few more circuit boards to plug directly into the remote components on the instrument tray. This simplifies the wiring and the installation!

We need to redesign the instrument tray for the smaller footprint now. Rivnuts will be inserted in the perfect locations which makes this installation really nice. While I am in Dayton I will follow up on the panels that are being custom fabricated for each customer. Waterjet cut, then anodized, then laser engraved.

I will bring the entire panel assembly to Oshkosh for your viewing pleasure.

Next stop looks like back to Florida this week. 15 more hours behind the wheel. Sigh. This time to pull a trailer I need down south to use to bring the Merlin Lite to Oshkosh coming up. Another 20+ hours’ driving. More if I detour to Mobile first. Double sigh.

At least I get to fly Merlins more often now!!!! BTW, the green Melrin factory demo with the HKS engine is still available. I would be happy to fly it to Oshkosh if I didn’t have to drive the Merlin Lite up.

In case you missed it Dan Johnson posted a nice article and video on our DEPOD innovation:

https://bydanjohnson.com/more-than-spinning-multicopters-heres-an-wing-borne-electric-idea-that-recently-won-a-patent/

Back to work.

CHIP

 

 

A REALLY BIG WEEK IN ALABAMA!

So much to report I don’t know where to start. Randomly:

The first Merlin with a Vtwin is now flying in USA! And it flys great! Smooth, fast, and just feels nice. And sounds nice from those reporting on the ground. And the avionics are super.  That is big news, but it gets better.

Almost the entire week was devoted to getting the St. Elmo. Alabama build center set up. What this really means is a lot of effort went into inventory management. The Vtwin installation has been a moving target. Don’t need to tell you it took a while. But now we have a product we can deliver! And to do that well means getting the assembly steps and details documented and then setting up the inventory and populating the shelves and bins. This was accomplished to a very large degree this week and means: 1) Builders will finally get their chit, and 2): The build program starts in earnest!

I prepared a step-by-step assembly process including the detailed BOM then matched the inventory bins to the steps and parts list. We need to do another build to get the part numbers perfect then I will share this document on the builder’s page.

You can see from the photos that these are not bare shelves either. Probably over $100k in inventory not including the aircraft kits. Engines, redrives, engine mounts, exhaust systems, cooling systems, props, cowls, strobes and other options and several complete deluxe panel avionics!

Now that we have a proper BOM nearly finished I can fill in the blanks to bring inventory levels to 100%. Then finally ship the parts builders have so patentially waited for. Very soon too!

Check out the build center and a cockpit flying selfie video:

https://youtu.be/_9_1ewbgVzA

Plus, both the engine wiring harness and the avionics wiring harness designs are finished and out for production.

The next Merlin is already in the build center. Next week I will be in Dayton to finish and deliver the last Merlin from Dayton. Then back to Alabama to work with Paul and crew on new builds.

Even more news: A Merlin was delivered to Brian from Texas. Or more accurately, he came and picked it up. He booked a flight to Mobile and rented a 20-foot U Haul box truck, drove it to Lowes and Harbor Freight and collected ratch straps, shipping blankets, and 2x4s and even some tools, I guess for his upcoming build. This plan means only driving one-way plus, the Merlin is protected inside the truck. Pretty good plan.

Say hi to Brian! I am sure he will post photos from his upcoming build on our Aeromarine Facebook page.

Now the really big news!

I found a case of Czech beer in one of the Merlins from the last container that was somehow overlooked!

Woohoo, a cold Czech beer after a very productive week.

CWE