Don is a past A-10 driver, one of my favorite aircraft! Here is his 1st Merlin story:
My first Merlin blog…
I’ve always wanted my own airplane but anything pre-built and that was within a reasonable budget simply didn’t appeal to me. Likewise, the traditional kit-plane route was even less appealing – I wanted something that would have good performance, would be a predictable build, and that wouldn’t take thousands’ of hours and a decade to finish.
A friend told me about the Merlin and put me onto the Aeromarine website. This looked very promising! – a CAD designed, quick-build, all-metal, closed-cockpit kit plane with metalwork that is punched out via CAD/CAM and no fiber-glass work required! For these reasons, this kit-built aircraft appeared very attractive, and based upon Chip Erwin’s videos, looked to have the performance I was especially looking for. The genuinely quick-build nature and predictable/repeatable build results with the Aeromarine Merlin kit was rather intriguing. They really seem to have done their homework as so much of the guess-work of kit-building has been eliminated. I’m confident that building a Merlin would be pretty smooth sailing.
I didn’t make it to Oshkosh, but Chip had a Merlin on display there. On his drive back to Florida, he stopped off in Dayton and I was able to meet with Chip and see and inspect the aircraft as it sat on the trailer. I had read all of the specs, and watched all of Chip’s videos and knew that the Merlin was small, but as I walked up to the aircraft and stood next to it for the first time, it never sunk in just how small this thing really is.
My initial impression looking over the Merlin for the first time was: “Wow! This is TINY! – Tiny but impressive…”
Looks are deceiving and as others have commented, I too wasn’t sure if I would even fit into the cockpit. However, as I worked my knee over the stick and got adjusted I had my second, very pleasant surprise: Its downright roomy! Big surprise for being such a small aircraft. In fact, there is far more elbow and even leg room there than there is right now since I’m writing this blog while riding “steerage“ on a Dallas-bound American Airlines S80.
I found the layout of the cockpit, controls, etc., – everything to be excellent. Visibility is terrific and I quickly understood that this is precisely what I’ve been looking for. The design, and overall “cockpit fit“, as well as fit & finish of the airplane is absolutely first-rate. Unlike other kit-builts I might have considered, this has all of the hallmarks of a genuine production aircraft, and excellent performance as well. As I eased out of the cockpit, I was sold – Chip didn’t need to say a word…
One of the things that put me off of production aircraft (besides price) is the inability to add minor customizations – I’m also a radio amateur and want to be able to put additional radio equipment and antennas aboard the aircraft. Building my own Merlin is the best approach for me.
So over a nice beer with Chip, we discussed the various options and I walked out very happy with my decision to order my Merlin. I opted for the HKS engine. I’ve always enjoyed the tranquility of night flying so I’m planning to equip my Merlin to permit night as well as IFR operation and I’ve started planning the avionics and layout of the instrument panel, etc. I also want to make a few other minor customizations such as military-style stick grip with trim button on the stick and maybe even toe-brakes. It should all be so easily doable.
I’m eagerly look forward to delivery of the kit and I think the assembly will be quite fun. Chip has been good at updating me on the progress of the kit as it gets ready to ship and has been good to bounce ideas off of. I can hardly wait to put this thing in the air! I’ve even started shopping around for paint colors and have also received my N-number from the FAA.