To the answer “Progressive Aerodyne!” comes the Jeopardy question, “What LSA company thumbs its nose at the bad economy?” *** Certainly one of the most-fun LSA flights I’ve had in some time came at the controls of that company’s SeaRey amphibian.My LSA pal Dan Johnson recently wrote up a piece on the amphib which spurred me to excerpt some highlights in advance of my own flight report on the lively sea bird coming soon in Plane & Pilot magazine. *** Wayne and Kerry Richter, second and third generation founders of Progressive Aerodyne, started back in the ‘70s with many memorable UL birds they created with dad/grandfather Stanley Richter. The company then was Advanced Aviation and it put out, among other craft, several iterations of a very popular ultralight amphib: the Buccaneer.Building on that success, as Dan notes, Progressive Aerodyne popped out 31 Experimental Amateur Built kits in 2010.
Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey LSX
Phone: 352-253-0108Tavares, FL 32778 - USA
Progressive Aerodyne and their popular SeaRey amphibian represent a current-day success sufficient to generate envy in most airframe sellers. Consider these results: Searey delivered 31 kits in 2010, an average 2.5 per month during a lousy year. Plus, in just three weeks since Sebring another 14 SeaRey kits have been ordered, upping the monthly average to 4.0. True those SeaReys are Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) kit models and so don’t compare directly with SLSA sales. *** In less than three years, company spokesman and sales director Darrell Lynds (formerly with SportairUSA) took the company from one kit a month to its current pace, along the way building a list of 1,700 very interested potential buyers. He says his 2011 orders are cash-in-hand and projects a solid year for the amphibious seaplane producer. This adds to a remarkably loyal following of 600 SeaRey aircraft builders. How can the central Florida manufacturer be doing so well?
Here’s a glancing blow at some products you might want to check out in depth: *** A cute new LSA named Viper SD-4 showed up, beautifully built (in Slovenia) and should be very attractive to anyone who likes the conventional approach of an all-metal airframe done in the traditional way — with a modern technological boost. *** The parent company, Tomark Aero, uses CAD design and CNC precision cutting methods. *** US distribution will be through Tomark Aero USA, located in Frisco, TX. *** Some specifications: • Wingspan 27′ 10 1/2 ” • Max weight 1,320 pounds • Cruise 108 knots • Max speed 120 knots • Stall 40 knots • Climb 1,280 fpm • Take-off run 525 feet • Landing run 722 feet *** Wild and Crazy in a Flying Boat: that’s what I’d title a short movie I’d make of my fun ride with Kerry Richter, designer of the SeaRey amphib, took me for a way-too-fun ride over, around, onto and off of a nearby lake.
Recently, I blogged about a Tennessee town that welcomed Skykits from Canada, providing a brand-new facility for them to use. A town in Florida also saw the potential of a light aircraft manufacturer and had a new building with lake access available. *** Arguably the most successful light aircraft seaplane producer is Progressive Aerodyne and their SeaRey amphibian. How successful? In January, they delivered SeaRey kit #500 to its owner in Belgium. That impressive number doesn’t tell the whole story, which centers around the tight community of SeaRey builders who often help each other and not solely with builder questions. In my years in aviation, I’ve never seen a closer group but then, as a fellow seaplane lover, that doesn’t surprise me; seaplane aviators share a common bond. Now, the SeaRey team is working hard to finish their SLSA version, giving enthusiasts a chance to buy a ready-to-fly SeaRey or a kit.
|Empty weight||880 pounds 1|
|Gross weight||1,430 pounds 2|
|Wingspan||30 feet 10 inches|
|Wing area||157 square feet|
|Wing loading||8.7 pounds per square foot|
|Useful Load||550 pounds|
|Length||22 feet 5 inches|
|Payload (with full fuel)||442 pounds|
|Cabin Interior||44 inches|
|Height||6 feet 5 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||18 gallons/108 pounds 3|
|Baggage area||60 pounds|
|Notes:||1Empty weight varies with equipment choices; shown is an
estimated typical empty weight|
2In SLSA redesign, gross weight re-engineered to 1,430 pounds from 1,370 pounds
3Optional fuel tanks raise total on board to 26 gallons
|Standard engine||Rotax 912 1|
|Prop Diameter||3-blade composite|
|Power||100 hp 1|
|Power loading||13.7 pounds per hp|
|Max Speed||98 knots/113 mph|
|Cruise speed||81 knots/92 mph|
|Stall Speed (Flaps)||35 knots/40 mph|
|Stall Speed||39 knots/45 mph|
|Never exceed speed||104 knots/120 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||800 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||375 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||300 feet|
|Range (powered)||3.5 hrs., 330 mi.|
|Fuel Consumption||5.6 gph at 75% power|
|Notes:||1Engine choices include 80- and 100-hp Rotax 912ULS and 115-hp Rotax 914 Turbo|
|Standard Features||Rotax 912 at 80 hp; analog flight and engine instruments; retractable gear; hydraulic disc brakes; retractable shoulder harness; 18-gallon fuel capacity; 3-blade composite prop; manually operated flaps; electric trim; mechanical gear retraction system; 6-inch aluminum wheels with 4-inch steerable tail wheel; fully built LSA.|
|Options||100-hp Rotax 912 or 115-hp Rotax 914; full electronic avionics including Dynon D-180 and Garmin 696; optional 26-gallon (total) fuel capacity; high-capacity wheels and brakes; ballistic parachute; interior upgrade options.|
|Construction||Aluminum airframe; fiberglass hull (carbon fiber optional); steel landing gear and other components; dope and- fabric wing coverings. US-owned company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Familiar, popular design from a well-established company and designer; some 500 flying (built from kits). More useful load/payload than other boathull amphibs. Substantially updated to meet ASTM standards brought a higher gross weight.
Cons - Not a particularly fast design, if that's what a buyer is seeking. Construction is familiar to ultralight pilots, but is less common among Light- Sport Aircraft. At press time, company had not completed their SLSA airworthiness certification.
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Loaded with systems, including retractable landing gear and uncommon things like a bilge pump. Electric trim. Mechanical flaps. Hydraulic brakes. Audio warning system for gear position.
Cons - Pilots must manage gear in the right position for land vs. water landings (though the optional warning system helps, if selected). Engine access is somewhat awkward and made harder with the nicelooking fairing.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Generous 44-inch-wide cabin (though other LSA seaplanes are wider still). Sliding canopies are a delight as well as a very serious safety feature because exiting an upset seaplane may be easier with dual sliding canopies. Very comfortable interior.
Cons - Entry and particularly getting up out of the seat may prove challenging to less flexible pilots (though structure around you is sturdy for handholds). Seats not adjustable. Shoulder belts only in test aircraft.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Taxiing on land is good with responsive tailwheel steering, or on water, thanks to a water rudder located well aft, giving a good lever arm.Water handling is excellent, like a speedboat in an experienced pilot's hands. Great ventilation, thanks to sliding canopies.
Cons - Even with a 10-inch draft you may be limited to calmer water like lakes. Gear stance places hull low to ground (though in an emergency, landing on the hull may be a good idea anyway). No differential braking to aid ground ramp maneuverability.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Water landings work well and appear to require relatively modest skills, making the SeaRey a good starter amphib. Short 300-foot water runs and 10 to 12 seconds. Sliding canopy allows easy pier access. Beaching appeared almost too easy. Slips worked very well.
Cons - Water landings were easier; on land, aircraft sits very low before touchdown; it takes some acclimatization (though gear is up to the task of instruction). Ground clearance is low to bottom of hull.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - The SeaRey has an excellent combination of predictable controls that are quite responsive. Roll rate was reasonably fast (about 3 seconds, 45-to-45). You never have to land crosswind on the water in a seaplane. On land, the SeaRey exhibited good control authority.
Cons - Handling in water requires additional training (insurance will also demand more training). Downwind water handling can be particularly challenging in stronger winds. No other negatives.
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Water runs are short (300 feet) and are essentially the same on land or water. Climb is reasonable at 800 fpm with the 100-hp Rotax 912 engine (650 fpm with 80 hp). Seaplane landings are generally short. Excellent slow-speed flight characteristics; especially useful for sightseeing by seaplane.
Cons - Amphibians are generally slower designs than fast land planes; cruise in a SeaRey is a modest 80 knots (though speed is not an objective of most seaplane pilots. Climb seemed a little weak, possibly owing to a higher empty weight on test aircraft.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stalls were almost nonevents; I found no clean break to any stall practiced. Slow stall at 35 knots with flaps; 39 knots without. Longitudinal and lateral stability checks and power changes from trim, level flight revealed a benign SeaRey design.
Cons - Water operations require more training and you must mentally shift from airplane to boat. No other stability negatives discovered.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - With 500 flying, the SeaRey is the most popular amphibian in light aviation; owners are loyal and support one another. Company is well established and has been managed by the same family since its inception in the early 1990s. The SeaRey is priced modestly compared to other LSA flying boats.
Cons - The SeaRey is still awaiting approval as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft; until then only an Experimental Amateur-Built kit is available. At about $100,000 ready-to-fly, the SeaRey won't be in everyone's budget (but EAB or ELSA kits can dramatically lower costs in exchange for your labor).
Let’s be honest. We’re into flying because we enjoy the experience, right? Flying light, sporting aircraft is not about flying to work or transporting goods or people. And if enjoyment is the main flying goal, then seaplanes are a big part of that pleasure. Of the LSA-qualified seaplanes covered this year (FPNA Cape Town A- 22 and Airmax SeaMax), the SeaRey is more familiar to readers of Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine and more affordable. The SeaRey is familiar because of its past in this community. It’s built and it flies as you’d expect, more so than some $135,000 carbon fiber speedster. It also costs a great deal less and it’s available as a kit to save even more dough. Make no mistake. The SeaRey LSX (the Experimental-LSA kit version) and the SeaRey Sport (the fully-built version in latter stages of certification) are advanced light planes, by which I mean SeaRey has developed significantly from its simpler 2- stroke-powered early models.
After a tough winter in most parts of the USA, spring evidently arrived early with 80-degree temperatures as far north as Minnesota… all before Sun ‘n Fun. More good news: After its coldest winter since the early 1980s Florida is extremely pleasant now, warm with low humidity. *** Indications are the economy continues bearing down on Light-Sport aviation. Confronted with cautious customers, some aircraft producers have tightened their costs and are offering sharply lower prices in time for Sun ‘n Fun. *** Flight Design announced its CTLS Lite, which makes two impressive accomplishments. By slightly trimming the equipment list and making other adjustments, the market leader was able to slice $20,000 off the price, coming in at $119,800. They also cut a most impressive 50 pounds from the empty weight. *** Jabiru USA offers two models discounted for a short time. Taking $11,000 off the price of their J-170 brings the base to $85,900.
We sit on the edge of hitting triple digits of Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Just before Oshkosh started, Van’s Aircraft announced their RV-12 qualified for SLSA airworthiness (which also allows the Oregon company to sell ELSA kits). People have started to ask, “Who will offer Number 100 SLSA?” One possibility is the SeaRey from Progressive Aerodyne. *** SeaRey marketing man, Darrell Lynds reported a spectacular Oshkosh event, “We sold 11 kit SeaRey aircraft (the LSX) and four SLSA versions to be called the SeaRey Sport.” That represents quite a performance, causing me to inquire what amount of money changed hands in order to call these an order. “We collected $5,000 toward a kit and $10,000 on a fully-built SLSA,” explained Darrell. I’d call that enough cash per airplane to make for genuine orders. *** I spoke with many sellers at Oshkosh who reported “very solid leads,” and “genuinely interested buyers,” but a few complained that despite these positive comments, they were not seeing the cash.
Seaplane enthusiasts comprise a niche of American aviation but are some of the most passionate of all powered aircraft pilots. Among these, owners of almost 500 SeaRey aircraft belong to one of the tightest knit communities I’ve seen. Kerry and Wayne Richter, the son and father team that gave birth to the SeaRey (and several other models) have quietly built one of the strongest brands in light seaplanes… and now they are moving into the Special Light-Sport Aircraft space with their new LSX. Kerry says the new model, while visually similar to earlier SeaReys, possesses no fewer than 78 new or revised features including a custom interior and complete rework of the panel. *** I flew with Kerry in the new machine from my Florida home base at Spruce Creek Fly-in. We hopped LSX over to a nearby lake and Kerry executed a couple perfect water landings.