OK here we go with another blog. I know, ’bout time. But I had to have something to report. I still don’t but will give it a go anyway:
Vtwin News: We built a test stand, installed wired, and plumbed the engine, and it fired right up and runs perfect. Stuck a prop on it with same results. Just as we expected. Now we can breath again. I have 20 engines and 20 reduction drives in stock and will start pairing them up and shipping them off soon. This link shows our Vtwin high pressure fuel system with return to feed the fuel injection system.
We have two Merlin firewall forward packages shipping by air to us soon and we have two Merlins waiting for Vtwin installations in our hangars. Plus some Merlin builders ready for engines now as well. 5 containers of Merlins sold so far in 2021. That means plenty of engines needed. And plenty of engines and reduction drives in stock too. Plus we are now the 2nd biggest customer of MGL with all the new panels sold.
Last week was vendor-bonding at the Deland airshow. This Merlin Lite prototype has the now patented DEPOD installed in the wings. That got some attention at the show. Our DEPOD not only cuts take-off and landing distances by more than 50% but it also has active envelope protection. That means a loss of primary engine power on take off is a non-event as the aircraft can still climb on DEPOD power and circle back to make a normal landing. Furthermore, the DEPOD eliminates the base-to-final spin, or all other spins for that matter as the computer automatically spins up one motor when needed to keep the ball always centered.
Now the Merlin Lite is back at the South Lakeland hangar and reassembled ready for more fun and informative flights. Expect some new videos!
In production news the first two Merlin Lites are nearly finished and we will begin with both Polini and electric-power installations in early December.
Above you can see finished wings, tails, flaps, and ailerons. The rear and forward fuselage assembles are mostly done as well and will be joined soon. Once we have the airframe assembled we will conduct a W&B exercise to determine the engine and motor positions and then can design and fabricate the mounts.
Watch this space!
https://www.aeromarine-lsa.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/PXL_20211111_214722719-scaled.jpg19202560Chiphttps://www.aeromarine-lsa.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/aeromarine-logo.pngChip2021-11-15 23:13:282021-11-15 23:14:09Merlin Lite and Vtwin Update
I have been worried a bit about how the world events and pending inflation and work shortages and microchip shortages and F/X changes and freight issues would affect the Merlin line of aircraft pricing. After all I am trying to offer quality aircraft at very reasonable prices.
The good news is I do NOT plan to raise the Merlin or Merlin Lite base prices. Apparently these issues are worldwide so there have not been huge F/X or other swings. The EU government is spending more money than they have just like in USA.
However there are some fine tuning on options and accessories. Strobe lights, upholstery, and the BRS systems have some small price adjustments. At least we will now include a couple fiberglass wingtip fairings with each strobe set and nice custom BRS composite shroud covers.
Other cost considerations like labor and avionics have not yet materialized in increased prices, just longer lead times. But we are getting aircraft and avionics and reduction drives and props and Vtwin engine. All is good. Not great but good.
But freight has to have a more significant adjustment as the costs of shipping containers of aircraft has tripled. At some point the higher cost of USA-based labor is offset by the higher freight costs. In anticipation of this I am planning to move assembly of the Merlin Lite and the Electrolite to USA in the middle of 2022. But first we have to get production sorted and first deliveries out the door. And it does look like the Electrolite price, which has not yet been set, will be higher than I hoped. But that directly relates to the higher quality components we have selected which will translate into improved performance, endurance, and safety.
There is some real news: The electric system has been bench-tested with our 2-blade carbon prop with excellent results and meeting our expectations. This week we are testing the 3-blade carbon prop. Next blog I hope to post some of these tests and results.
For your viewing pleasure (and lack of anything else to post) here is a sneak peak at the Lake Mango seaplane base. Windsock has arrived and will be installed after this next Dayton trip.
Strange that the first 3 trips this year under the Czech lockdown were a breeze. But as soon as the country opened up it became a lot harder to get in. Nice that the restaurants and pubs were open again but I could do without the tourists. Oh wait, I am one. At least this trip a medical tourist. I took my son there to have some wisdom teeth pulled. Great holiday for him.
You would think a hockey player wouldn’t need to lose teeth voluntarily.
Part 1: Vtwins
Here is an example of a typical Vtwin’s life installed in an ATV. Built to handle this abusive environment. As I like to say “Redneck tested.” Flying in an aircraft is easy work.
Security bolt will be installed for tractor props on the redrive.
Exhaust will be connected to the engine base so it moves with the engine which reduces exhaust pipe fatigue
Radiator is custom-made as it is smaller than the Rotax radiator. Less BTUs to dispel. Cowl is made to match and has better lines
The Vtwin to Merlin installation is pretty much done. We will have a Czech Merlin and a Dayton Merlin flying soon. Finished: Exhaust, cowl, custom radiator, redrive, prop, engine mount, and most of the fuel system. We do need to finish the systems installation, sort a header tank for the fuel return line, and make an assembly manual. We also are reprogramming the ECU. ATVs have no load in neutral but aircraft are turning a prop and reduction drive in idle. We have the cable and software and are working to optimize the engine ECU program to match aircraft operations. We have 20 engines in stock now plus a dozen reduction drives. Shipping Vtwins resumes as soon as we have the ECU reprogrammed.
Part 2. Merlin Lite & the Electrolite
This is taking longer than I expected. For one, the 20+ changes including new engine, new wing, tricycle gear, updated controls, basically results in nearly a new aircraft design. But that was the easy part. Making all the parts and then assembly was hampered by the Czech government paying workers nearly as much to stay home as to work. We know that is not just in the Czech Republic either. But we are getting somewhere. All the parts are made now which is the hard part. Assembly is well underway. I am expecting the first two airframes done this month with the Polini 303DS getting installed on one and electric on #2. Then we will push to get 4 more Merlin Lites done this year.
Merlin Lite #1 gets electric power
This is still #1 but parts for #2 are done and two spar sets are done.
This REB30 motor has 30 kw power with up to 40kw available for take-off.
Aeromarine (that’s me) has patent #2 in progress. This one is for the Jettisonable battery pods. The ribbon copy of Patent #1 will arrive in 2 weeks. That one is the DEP on Demand innovation.
The design of the 750 straight floats for the Merlin Lite is done and most of the parts are made. The floats will be done on time to be installed on the electric powered Merlin Lite. Oh, I forgot, it has it’s own name The Electrolite (TM). Float brackets will be installed on #1. After the flight test program is finished in the Czech Republic we can ship to USA and move right to float operation. I have already figured out my docking station. And not for the notebook!
Something to imagine: A true Part 103 Electrolite with a 40kw electric motor on floats. That is close to 54hp with lightweight straight floats, huge wing, huge slotted flap. Think duck taking off a pond! This product is going to make a huge splash! Figuratively of course.
Part 3: Merlins and other dribble
I hate to make excuses but the container I thought would ship about now won’t ship until mid November. But at least it is close. A couple Merlins are getting some really nice paint jobs. That is always nice. The Czech painting for the most part is excellent and a really good value.
The container after this one is already sold out. 2021 was a record year for Merlin sales and 2022 is well underway for deliveries. The Merlin with the Vtwin is a perfect match.
Dozens of mock-up jigs are made to fine-tune the precision matched-hole programming
I always wondered how they got the holes to line up so perfectly between bent ribs and skins. I thought it was the high-end Catia software. And that is true but that is only accurate to a limit. The CAD designers cut mini tooling to bend then drill small part samples then measure the exact hole position after the part is bent and tweak the software. That is how the Merlin goes together so perfectly without hardly ever even picking up a drill.
Here is another interesting jig: This is a cross section of the Merlin fuel tank. It simplifies the bending and installation of the VDO fuel sender. You can also see the fuel pick-up.
BRS bridle covers
This new fiberglass fairing covers the Kevlar BRS bridles from the front spar to the chute cover. When it passes the rear spar the fairing is a bit taller to cover both front and rear bridles together until they slot through the fuselage skin to attach to the chute and rocket. Look carefully and you can see the new aluminum breakaway chute cover. I brought 6 sets of these covers with me on the aircraft. They are too long for the luggage so I just carried them with me. Big boomerangs…..
One last note: The new deluxe panel design featuring the 7-1/2 inch MGL EFIS is pretty much done. Builder Don is working on the wiring harness and custom circuit board for the switches and fuses. This will be one really nice panel with ADSB in and out, traffic and weather overlays, synthetic vision, etc… And take hours instead of days to install. I am keeping him fueled with beer….. Fine line between not enough and too much.
Legal drinking age is 18 in the Czech Republic. Happy Day!
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.