It was introduced to Europe in 2013 at the AERO Expo. The aircraft attracted a great deal of interest due to its excellent performance specifications and attractive lines.
The Merlin needs only 60hp as it is much lighter than 2-seat LSA aircraft. Even with only 60hp the cruise speed is 120mph and take-off and climb performance is excellent.
Compared to LSA the Merlin is faster than most, has higher wing loading so it can be flown more comfortably all day long, and costs about 75% less.
We have two engine choices: The well-known 65hp Rotax 582 and our new Vtwin 60hp 4-stroke engine.
Single Seat Aircraft Discussion:
Is an ‘affordable aircraft’ an oxymoron? For most people probably yes. But maybe there is some hope for single-seat aircraft without the cost of LSA and without the limitations of Part 103 ultralights.
- Priced between $28k and $45k mostly depending on the complexity of the panel and if builders’ assistance program is selected. Not much more than a Harley-Davidson or Goldwing motorcycle. Affordable for many.
- Powered our new Vtwin 4-stroke aircraft engine.
- Can be flown with Sport Pilot license and no medical.
- Fully enclosed and conventional aircraft style and construction.
- Good performance and handling. Cruise up to 120mph and can fly VFR or IFR.
In our unofficial study we found that the vast majority of sport flying sorties last about 42 minutes and are flown alone so maybe having only one seat is not such a bad trade-off to save six figures.
And if another study was done many ‘significant others’ would be silently relieved that they would not be able to go flying with their spouses’ new toy.
Perhaps the original PSA: The Mooney Mite
The Mite was designed by Al Mooney and was intended as a personal airplane marketed to fighter pilots returning from World War II. However, it was priced 20% higher than most of the 2-seat competitors at the time. Perhaps if it was priced 75% lower than the 2-seat competition as a modern PSA could be then it may have been a greater success. It did enjoy a nice production run of 283 units would be very respectable in today’s market.
Aircraft engineers know that the cost of an aircraft increases exponentially
with the number of seats. So a two-seat LSA will cost 3 times more than a single-seat Merlin.
I built a pretty good aircraft manufacturing business in Europe a few years ago by offering the best aircraft I could at a reasonable and very competitive price.
I was able to do this by operating an efficient and lean factory in the Czech Republic when skilled and trained aircraft labor was around $3/hour and aeronautical engineers earned MacDonald wages. What I sold then was European microlights which were 450 kg gross weight and 2-seats and were powered by Rotax 4-stroke engines. Prices ranged around $60k retail. Dozens of similar style aircraft morphed themselves into USA LSA aircraft when that rule came into effect and gradually the options increased, and the prices doubled.
But now most LSA aircraft sell for upwards of $150k. The short list of reasons:
- Cheap skilled labor is gone. Due to wage inflation and f/x rates Eastern Europe labor is now nearly 500% higher.
- Cheap labor can still be found but with low skills attached and other stigmas like ‘built in China’.
- Aircraft engines now costs more than double upwards of $20k.
- Most LSA are priced around $140k however anyone who can afford that much for a 2-seat aircraft can afford $175k too so they add every option like leather, autopilot, dual glass plus a 3rd GPS…. Back in the day our option list was not much more than a handheld GPS and a transponder.
- Sales volume is so low at those prices that manufacturers and distributors must make huge margins on each sale to survive. Note only 250 aircraft sold/year divided by 100+ manufacturers.