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

 

 

 

 

Busy week and another Merlin!

How much content can I get into one post before my enchiladas arrive? I lot I think as I haven’t ordered them yet. Working backwards: I just finished a solid week of building at our Dayton center and now driving a Merlin to Alabama. Only 12-hour trip. Sigh. But we got A LOT done in Dayton. In no particular order:

The first Merlin recognition light is installed. We could call it a landing light, but it does not quite meet the FARs for certification as a true landing light. Plenty bright LEDs, however. And easy to install as we made a pretty cool bracket plus we already pre-wired a switch on our circuit board/panel for it.

Sure, I have been talking about how cool our panel is forever. But it is so cool I bring it up again. What’s new is we just finished two panels in one day. You can see the wiring, the remote components, and how one of the 7 screens looks like. This is a LOT of technology and I trust worth the wait. Now the final circuit board versions are done and same for the avionics wiring harness, and the remote mounting tray, and the custom engine harness. ALL DONE. I know, about fricking time. Soon we will stock up and ship out.

On this Merlin I have been trying to remove the protective film for about 6 months. Even with special solvent it was not possible. Maybe a blow torch and an edge grinder woulda worked but I doubt the Lexan woulda survived. Finally, I bit the bullet and removed the windscreen. Conveniently, about 5 miles away is the shop that produces all the RV canopies and a few hundred more. We traced the windscreen shape and cut a new one out. Back at the hangar I overlayed the old screen and clecoed the two together and drilled the holes.

New Lexan is installed. Don was working on the panel for an hour and never noticed the windscreen was there it is so crystal clear.

Today I mostly finished this Merlin which is not following me to Alabama for certification before handing over to the customer.

I conducted a series of taxi tests. Adjustments and comments:

The prop was set at 24 degrees. I changed it to 18, then 16, the 14 degrees before I got the 6,000 RPM, I like static. I will be compiling a worksheet on specs like 14 degrees measured 7 inches in from the prop tip and other useful data.

Idle needed fine-tuning. Seatbelts needed adjusting. Static port needed unplugging. Now all good and ready to fly. I made my usual high speed taxi test. And that is all I am saying. I never left the ground. It wasn’t me, I wasn’t there, and nobody saw me.

BTW, we have custom screens for the EFIS to match the Merlin and Vtwin specs. Copy the files to a SD card, upload to the EFIS, and configure. Plus a few other set-up tricks.

So here is the really big news: Oh, wait my enchiladas arrived!

CHIP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

am now driving from

Dayton Video

I spend all last week and the weekend in Dayton finishing two Merlins.

And made a demo flight in the Merlin Lite before handing #1 over to the customer in Illinois.

Here is a selfie video:

https://youtu.be/m-2jqanbw4U

It was a good week, and these two Merlins will be delivered soon.

I even managed to get the graphics installed. New look for this year. I can provide these stripes in any color.

I worked alongside Builder Don for the avionics. He fine-tuned the engine wiring harness. The supplier has already laidd out the final engine harness version and will build some for us ASAP.

I also upgraded both reduction drives to the new back plate with the second bearing. I found a much easier way to get the belt onto the pulleys. Do it before sliding onto the back plate. Works great!

Here is what a blown fuse looks like. Red LED lights up so you know which fuse blew.

Also, I have the files from MGL to upload the screens custom for the Merlin and Vtwin. Screen is now perfect with the info we need.

I think the video covers everything, at least when my fat finger is not covering the mic.

Monday morning, I fly back to Dayton to finish these two Merlins!!!!!

Next stop will be Alabama to get more Merlins built. Finally, some serious progress and tangible results for all the months of R&D.

Cheers,

CHIP

 

 

 

 

Dayton Days 4 & 5 Build Center – AVIONICS

Todays’ blog will be photos mostly because I do not want to write 1,000 words. We have been busting butt this week and I think we got a LOT done. I hope you agree. Here we go.

The upgraded reduction drive is finished and installed. We have 2 more backing plates water cut and milled and with bearings pressed in and will install in the next 2 Merlin’s in the build program and get more upgrades fabricated for everyone.

The photo above shows the redrive but more importantly, it shows the completed and installed engine wiring harness. This design is finally refined to perfect, and the harness manufacturer is fabricating enough for everyone. It is really ‘plug & play”.

Here is what the avionics tray looks like before riveting in behind the instrument panel. We waterjet the panel with the mounting holes all located then make a few bends to match the Merlin structure. Then install rivnuts in the remote avionics mounting holes. Simple and quick. Then drop it in to the aircraft. Everything we do is designed to be replicated perfectly. And designed to make installation super-fast and perfect.

Here is what the panel looks like from behind. This is really a money shot. The circuit boards are redesigned to accept 9 and 24 pin connectors.  Dozens of blade connectors are eliminated. The circuit boards attach to the panel and the harness comes ready to plug into the boards and to the remote avionics and antennas.

Any builder can have a panel that looks this good in just a few minutes!

Next step it to attach the panel to the Merlin then plug the panel harness into the components mounted on the avionics tray.

The panel is attached to the aircraft on the bottom with a piano hinge. Easy access.

The first of the 2 Merlins in our Dayton build program is 100% wired. Just a couple more day’s work with the cowl and fuel system.

Merlin #2 needs a day for the panel/avionics and a couple more days on the cowl and other details. I call that a good week What say you?

Cheers,
CIHP

Days 2 & 3 Dayton build center

You really were not expecting a blog every day were you #13?

Today was special with the delivery of production Merlin Lite #1. We first re-assembled the aircraft after the 15+ hour drive from Tampa. ATIS reported a direct cross wind with gusts to 19 knots. Those are conditions that ground most ultralights. Or at least those pilots with more sense than me.

The flight was my first from New Carlisle. And would be the first hard surface landing for me in the new Merlin Lite. And by far the most cross wind with gusts to 19 knots. Here is a short video:

https://youtu.be/Yyeof04XRoc

John Smiley accepting delivery of Merlin Lite #1. He is in central Illinois if anyone wants to visit him.

Progress finishing the 2 Merlins in Dayton is going OK but not as fast as we would like. It never does. But we have some pretty good results to report:

The engine harness design is finished! It was mostly finished a long time ago, but we needed to make one more installation with recent changes to nail it down perfectly and send the drawing out for harness production.

The reduction drive upgrade is getting installed. And we made some engine installation improvements as well.

An additional lower bearing is added.

BRS installation is mostly finished. Just some riveting remains.

The avionics’ wiring harness is also finished and will go into production ASAP.

The new circuit boards are fantastic! Now the wiring hardness simply plugs into the board rather than dozens of blade connectors.

Laser cut, anodized, and laser-etched panels.

These two Merlins are nearly finished. Next stop will be at M-Squared to get Paul up to speed on the upgrades and sort inventory for our builders and build programs. Great, another 12 hour’s drive…

CIAO,
CHIP

 

DAY 1 DAYTON BUILD CENTER

I am too busy to write this blog, but I am up to 15 followers now and they deserve to be informed. So here we go:

First, I made a short flight with the Merlin Lite on floats. That was fun. And the FAA recently approved my application to designate Mango Lake as a private seaplane base. Just in time too. Take that HOAs.

Float geometry is off about 1.5 degrees and CG by 2 inches. But no time to sort this. I need to get Merlin and Merlin Lites delivered ASAP!

Merlin Lite packed and ready to head north to Dayton.

15.5 hours later arrived at our Dayton assembly hangar. Note the Merlin on floats in the background.

We have 4 Merlins in Dayton with 2 in our build center currently. They are nearly finished. Our plan is to get them done this week. Builder/Avionics expert Don flew up from NC to help.

Here are two Merlins we are working on. Don is working on the avionics, and I am sorting the reduction drive and fuel system upgrades. And about a dozen other tasks like prop setting, cowl installation, and other stuff. We are making new reduction drive plates to incorporate a bearing.

I will try to post a daily update but no guarantees there. Pushing hard. Customers waiting too long.

Here is the avionics tray we fabricate to hold all the remote components behind the panel. You can see this being laser cut in the last blog.

that’s it for now. Off to the hangar and back to work.

CWE

 

 

 

 

Brief update from the Florida Hangar

https://youtu.be/StOYdAJ5AIc

Merlin Lite video for your viewing pleasure. You can see a series of stalls and proof of the excellent 16-1 or better glide ratio. Plus 600 FPM climb on 38 hp. The Merlin Lite is one exceptional aircraft!

Been super busy trying to get so many aircraft finished. Just back from a long road trip to NC. Finished flight tests of the Merlin Lite and getting it packed for this weekend trip to Dayton. Planning to finish 2 builds in Dayton next week.

Here are some new reduction drive blanks. And what it looks like with the new bearing installed. Not sure this is necessary, but we think that the asymmetrical load on the main crankshaft bearing from the belt drive tension is not what it was designed for. This upgrade, which we will make available to every Merlin/Vtwin builder, will eliminate that load 100%.

This week is float week. The Merlin Lite on floats at SNF is now ready for the pond.

Tuff load onto the trailer. Made it 25 miles to Mango Lake Seaplane Base (my backyard).

Nothing sketchy about this. Launch like a boat. Kinda. Builder Art was a great help as usual.

Get a tow from my neighbor.

Put it on my boat lift. Prepare for wing installation.

But first a birthday dinner for my lovely wife. Lilly and her boyfriend attended and brought gifts and balloons. Did I mention she got straight A’s her first year at USF in medical sciences?

Dawn patrol without the patrol. I know what’s wrong! She ain’t got no gas!

Early start this morning. Drinking coffee waiting for the sun to break the horizon to get to work. Visit from an Ibis on the dock checking out his ‘mother’.

All ready for taxi tests and first flights! Breaking in the Polini 303DS engine.

You will just hafta wait for the next post for the really cool stuff.

CHIP

 

 

 

COVID STRIKES AGAIN

Apparently, the chump next to me on the flight from Frankfurt to USA had covid. I thought that was over. To recap:

November to March I spent in CZ and UK getting the Vtwin installation fine-tuned and flown and flying the new Merlin Lite.

Then back to FL for a week of show prep and a week of SNF.

Then back to UK for more flight trials, then CZ, then AERO show in Germany. Then back to USA.

Then a week in bed sucking air with covid.

This Monday I felt better so drove 10 hours to NC to collect some wings and the trailer to return to FL.

Today back in the hangar for more work on the Merlin Lites. Some test flights plus getting the Merlin Lite on floats ready for sea trials on Lake Mango!

After that I will trailer a Merlin Lite to Dayton for delivery. And finish the 2 Merlins in the Dayton build program.

Then hopefully deliver one or both of those Merlins and then drive to AL to begin serious work on the Merlins in the build program there. Plus organize the parts and ship the Merlin builders have been waiting for.

Then back to FL to prepare the Merlin demo and the Merlin Lite for delivery.

And likely back to UK for more flight trials.

I have plenty of new video to edit and post whenever i can find the time.

I need to clone myself. Scary thought.

CHIP

Here is a Merlin II demo I have available. Nice plane.

 

BIG NEWS from Merlin Lite Flight Tests 16-1!!!!!!!!!!

Finally, some good flying conditions. Up early. Dawn patrol. But lost an hour changing out the Polini starter motor. I heard that might happen. Good thing I had a spare. So, what’s the big news? The Merlin Lite has an excellent glide rate!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why is that big news? Because one can fly the Merlin Lite outside Part 103 parameters with just a glider rating and motor-glider logbook endorsement. and NO MEDICAL. That means you can add options like the 2nd fuel tank, nice paint, etc. A few pounds over Part 103 limits no longer matters. Apparently, it didn’t matter before but maybe some people care.

But we knew that the Merlin Lite qualified as a motor-glider before. I designed the wing to meet the FAA motor-glider definition. But still, this is big news because the aircraft really works well for a low-cost, multi-purpose motor-glider. I cut the throttle to idle at 3,000 feet AGL and a full 7 minutes later was still high on final! That works out to a very reasonable 328 FPM sink rate.

Further calculations you can verify on the video I am posting now. Gliding in at about 60 mph converts to 5280 feet per minute speed.

I cut the power at 3,000 feet AGL and glided to 700 feet AGL when I deployed full flaps for landing. 2,300 feet took 7 minutes! That is a LOT different than most, if not all, ultralights I know of.

Divide the 2,300-foot drop by the sink rate of 328 FPM = 16-1 glide ratio!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that is with a 3-blade prop. The Polini has a clutch, so the prop simply freewheels. That is still drag but less than compressing an engine. I can easily use a 2-blade prop to improve performance a bit. Or perhaps a feathering prop if I can find one.

This confirms that the Merlin Lite is a viable motor-glider and at a fraction of the price of most other motor-gliders.

Furthermore, the electric-powered Merlin Lite, the Electrolite, will work very well with an endurance of at least an hour! In my cruise power tests I could fly at 58 MPH at only 4,800 RPM. I need 4,500 RPM just to taxi at 10 mph! Power requirements at cruise are exceptionally low. From today’s tests: 4,800=58 mph, 5,200=64 MPH, 5,600 RPM=67 MPH, 6,000 RPM=70 MPH, 6,300 RPM=73 MPH. The Merlin Lite trims ‘hands-off’ at all of these cruise settings!

And another takeaway: The engine does not care if the power is cut. Zero shock cooling. No load up. Ran perfect! This engine is liquid cooled and I install a thermostat. Full power climb to 3,000 feet and temperatures remained under 70C. Idle for an extended glide and temperature hovered around 50C.

I made a quick circuit to get a better idea of the take-off and landing distances. Unofficially, BOTH take-off and landing can be made in only 150 feet.

The Merlin Lite just keeps on getting better and better!

And here is the proof: https://youtu.be/LwqYkEQswcg
CWE

 

Sun N Fun Wrap Up and What’s Next

For those of you who missed SNF 2023 here are some photos.

We introduced the production version of the Merlin Lite and a new Merlin Lite on our 750 floats. An ultralight motor-glider floatplane all in one! This airplane is very impressive. I will be flying it off the water soon. That will be a lot of fun!

Here is the first of 3 videos/articles from Dan Johnson:

https://bydanjohnson.com/magical-merlin-motorglider-goes-both-ways-part-103-or-motorglider-gas-or-electric/

I think I had at least 7 interviews. Here is one by Kitplanes:

https://www.kitplanes.com/chip-erwin-on-the-aeromarine-four-stroke-lsa-engine/

The show was hot. Record heat for Florida this early. And dusty. No rain during the show never happens. Everything was covered in dust. But I guess that is better than the squall lines we have had in the past.

Interest in the entire Merlin line was strong. And even we don’t market it, the 2-seat Merlin yet demand is picking up.

I made a nice video of the flights into the show and lost it. Sigh. So, starting over, here is a video of the return from SNF with the Merlin Lite: https://youtu.be/nPsPeoqTZfA

Bottom right you can see a new addition: Remote choke for the Polini 303DS.

Here is my short-term work plan, with some overlapping tasks:

  • Sunday, I fly back to Europe. First stop is UK for more flight trials with the Vtwin Merlin. This is valuable to really prove the engine installation is sorted.
  • Next stop will be TPA in Olomouc, CZ. I will be sorting out the Vtwin documentation for the build manual and POH plus sorting the Merlin Lite POH, collecting parts, and a dozen or so other details with TPA.
  • And checking on the Merlin kits that should be nearly finished and will be shipped to M-Squared for assembly in USA soon.
  • And a possible stop at the AERO show as long as I am over there.
  • Plus, a visit to my Prague-based dentist. Hockey ya know…

I expect this trip will be under two weeks. I need to get back to USA to finish:

  • Numerous Merlin builds. Two Merlins in Dayton are nearly done then move operations to M-Squared in Alabama to finish builds there and get Paul up to speed.
  • Merlin Lite flight testing in Florida.
  • Merlin Lite on floats flights. And some really cool video I expect.
  • And a build in the Philippines to complete.
  • Then get ready for Oshkosh! I would like to have a TrueLite or two done for Oshkosh plus the Electrolite. But getting all the above work done by that term will be a challenge.

Watch this space to see the results in real time!

Cheers,

CHIP