Winter will soon yield to spring and summer, that time of year when flying from water becomes the delight of many pilots who have sampled this pleasure. Competing for their purchase in the LSA space, we have the FK Lightplanes Floatplane, FPNA A-22 Cape Town, and Legend AmphibCub. Other entries include SeaRey (close to declaring ASTM compliance); Mermaid (production plans uncertain), Icon (still in development), Colyaer Freedom (no U.S. representative), plus two trike amphibs with SLSA status (the Krucker Cygnet and Ramphos Trident). *** All this leaves out the SeaMax, which may actually be the strongest player among present SLSA amphibians. Logging its 10th year in 2009 AirMax has produced 98 SeaMaxes for worldwide sale. At $140,000, SeaMax once seemed rather expensive though today, many high-end SLSA command such prices. *** Consider the general appeal of the seaplane or floatplane compared to a land-only flyer.
Seamax Aircraft (formerly AirMax)
Phone: (260) 460-7587São João da Boa Vista, São Paulo CEP: 13.870-000 - Brazil
|Empty weight||750 pounds|
|Gross weight||1,320 pounds|
|Wingspan||20 feet 8 inches|
|Wing area||130 square feet|
|Wing loading||10.2 pounds per square foot|
|Useful Load||570 pounds|
|Length||18 feet 6 inches|
|Payload (with full fuel)||420 pounds|
|Cabin Interior||46.9 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||25 gallons/150 pounds|
|Standard engine||Rotax 912S|
|Prop Diameter||3-blade composite|
|Power loading||13.2 pounds per hp|
|Cruise speed||100 kts/115 mph|
|Stall Speed||36 kts/41 mph|
|Never exceed speed||139 kts/160 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||1,500 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||300 feet (350 feet on water)|
|Landing distance at gross||300 feet (350 feet on water)|
|Range (powered)||500+ miles, 4.5 hrs.|
|Fuel Consumption||about 5.6 gph|
|Standard Features||Boathull amphibian with electromechanical retractable gear, Rotax 912S in pusher configuration, 3-blade Warp Drive composite prop, brakes, in-flight trim, 25-gallon fuel tank, forward hinged canopy, 4-point belt seat restraint, overhead switch panel, communications radio and transponder, all standard engine and flight instruments.|
|Options||Additional instruments including digital glass, additional radio and navigation equipment including GPS, turn coordinator, artificial horizon, autopilot.|
|Construction||Entire airframe made of composite materials including fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar; steel or stainless steel landing gear and other components; made in Brazil with numerous parts American sourced; distributed in American by Florida-based company.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - The SeaMax was first LSA amphibian delivered to a U.S. customer, SeaMax USA believes. The 22nd design of its developer Miguel Rosario, the SeaMax is cleverly engineered in numerous ways (details in article). More useful load/payload than other boathull amphibians. Solid technical documentation helped gain SLSA approval.
Cons - Measured against Wet Aero's Mermaid or Icon's A5, the SeaMax has strong competition (though it compares well and is already on the market). Some people dismiss the SeaMax because it "looks" too small (you should try it on before deciding).
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 - Lots of systems, starting with retractable landing gear and retractable water rudder, which hides inside the air rudder, and uncommon things like a bilge pump. Also electric trim and flaps. Fuel tanks are easily accessed as wings are about chest-high. Engine is also easily reached once cowling is removed.
Cons - More systems to manage means more chance for error. For example, you must be certain you have the gear in the right position for land vs. water landings. If a pilot weighs less than 140 pounds, you must add weight to a designated location.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Wide 47-inch cabin surprises those who see a small airplane from the exterior. You can literally step into SeaMax and stand on the floor before seating yourself. Once inside, most occupant sizes will fit well. Radios and navigation gear are within easy reach of both occupants. Overhead switch panel also convenient.
Cons - The step in is easy, but getting into or out of the seat may prove challenging for less flexible pilots; the seats are low on the airframe. Seat belts were clumsy to tighten/loosen. (Since my flight evaluation, the seat belt was changed to one manufactured in the USA, apparently curing the problem).
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Taxiing on land is highly controllable; it also is in water, thanks to a retractable water rudder that is located well aft, giving a good lever arm. Speedy ops on water are fun and easily achieved with practice. Ground handling is good; canopy hinge is strong enough to remain open for ventilation during taxi. Differential hydraulic toe brakes.
Cons - Cockpit side rails are only inches above the water line at rest; unless you are experienced at flying in wave conditions, 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). Turn radius was fairly wide.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - Water landings may be the easiest and work well. Suggested technique is an attitude landing (hold a speed and wait for contact), a simple way to handle water landings. Excellent wide and aft visibility through large canopy. Short water runs in the 300- to 500-foot range, depending on loading.
Cons - Transition from airplane to boat as the SeaMax slows demands that you keep the stick full aft to prevent porpoising and upset. Developing techniques for good land or water landings will take some practice, in my experience. Did not attempt a beaching, however the U.S. rep says, "We park on the beach all the time."
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Light, responsive, predictable controls will please pilots who take the time to get used to them. Roll rate was medium to somewhat fast. You rarely have to land crosswind on the water in a seaplane, but on land, the SeaMax has all the control authority it needs..
Cons - Handling takes some acclimatization; my Dutch rolls were rather sloppy at first. Harmony isn't perfectly balanced between all controls; a few hours are needed to optimize (not uncommon on "performance designs"). Rudder control required attention due to some momentum in response. (Since my review, AirMax added a fin on the stabilator to help a pilot to get used to the controls faster.)
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - Water runs are relatively short (300 feet solo), and climb is brisk at 1,000 fpm for a few minutes after takeoff (later settling at 700 fpm). Landings are also rather short. Efficient airframe/airfoil, requiring less than 4,600 rpm to maintain altitude at 50 to 60 pounds under gross. Slow flight went well with flaps extended.
Cons - Even with retracting landing gear, no amphibian will be as fast as a land speedster; cruise is about 115 mph (100 kts). Sink rate is slightly on the high side of average when compared to all LSA.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stalls were mild in all my experiences. Stalls appeared to break benignly in the low 40-mph range though the factory says 36 mph with optimal flaps; regardless, stalls come at slow speeds. Longitudinal stability checks and power changes showed the SeaMax to be a generally stable aircraft.
Cons - Water ops require attention when slowing from airplane to boat. The SeaMax is clean and builds up speed quickly in a dive. High thrust line compared to most land LSA means powering up will push the nose downward at first (though the effect was modest and short-lived).
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - With about 90 flying, the SeaMax is the most successful flying boat in the light-sport sector. Compared to all other LSA boathull amphibians, the SeaMax has by far the most units flying worldwide. U.S. support is good even for a small organization; base in Florida assures a long demo flying season. Smooth, pretty airplane built beautifully.
Cons - Smaller service organization that may cause minor delays in repairs or parts needed. Very limited number in American customers' hands. Brazilian manufacturing may limit resale value (though SeaMax USA uses U.S. sources for many items on the SeaMax).
Let’s consider light amphibious aircraft – the boathull variety, not floatplanes – but including both freshly designed, fully built light sport aircraft along with kit aircraft born of the ultralight heritage. In the last year, the exceedingly handsome Icon A5 has made quite a splash, literally and figuratively. However, the A5 is more than a year away from first deliveries and an order placed today might not be delivered until 2011 or later. Another LSA amphibian called the Mermaid was designed and introduced by Czech Aircraft Works of SportCruiser fame. Although five are available in the country, sales have yet to take off. Another popular American seaplane, the SeaRey, is moving toward ASTM approval but remains a kit that asks several hundred hours of a builder’s time. The simpler and faster-build Aventura models also remain available; this design has been on the market for many years. Either kit is less costly than a fully built aircraft, but all seaplanes have loftier price tags to cover their ability to operate on land or water.
Sun ‘n Fun 2008 is history, but planning is already underway for the 2009 event. Event boss John Burton confirmed we will again have the LAMA-hosted LSA Mall right at the front gate next April 21-26. A major success at this year’s Lakeland, Florida airshow, the industry Mall presentation featured 17 Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Weather prevented Fantasy Air’s Allegro from attending. Two days before the event, a tornado crushed a Sting S3 planned for display. And work at Quicksilver Manufacturing postponed the exhibit of the GT500 (they’re finishing SLSA approval, reports national sales manager, Todd Ellefson). *** The 17 who were in the ’08 LSA Mall enjoyed significant traffic all week and virtually every visitor to Sun ‘n Fun was at least exposed to Light-Sport Aircraft in a wide variety (although we were not able to enlist any trike or powered parachute companies).
The “night before Christmas” was special as we logged what may be the final approval of 2007. Carlos Bessa of SeaMax USA called to say his efforts over the year paid off with a fresh airworthiness certificate. How’s that for a Christmas gift!? SeaMax completes a trio of flying boat LSA. *** The first amphibian certified was the CZAW Mermaid in February 2006. Second was the Colyaer Freedom on January 2007. SeaMax makes three but could be the first to log customer sales. My previous SPLOG on SeaMax was followed with several more hours logged on this beautiful amphibian. She’s a light weight high performer that takes some familiarization but is deluxe in many ways and has achieved notable market success with 33 SeaMax aircraft delivered in 2007 and 72 presently flying worldwide. Carlos reports 12 will be delivered to the USA in 2008, so interested pilots ought to pony up a deposit soon.
Season-opening Sun ‘n Fun is crackling with excitement, enough so to make SPLOG posting a late-night effort. What a pleasure it is to be here, compared to my miss last year; thanks to many who welcomed me back! I’ve been working with Sun ‘n Fun boss John Burton regarding Light-Sport Aircraft and ultralights. John and his team provided a terrific location where LAMA and LSA Marketing Group erected a big tent, thanks to several industry sponsors*. Shiny new LSA greet everyone arriving through the main gate; airplanes are changed almost daily. I estimate 75-80% of all people attending Sun ‘n Fun view the LSA display. In addition to promoting their own products, all companies participating in the location are helping attendees find the LSA or ultralight company they wish to visit — a key reason Sun ‘n Fun offered the entrance area space. (* Sponsors include Sky Arrow USA, Sport Aircraft Works, FK Lightplanes, Jabiru USA, Fantasy Air USA, LSA America, Evektor America, BRS parachutes, Chuck Parsons, Larry Burke, and Doug Hempstead.)
My wife, Randee, and I are finding lots of good reasons to winter in Florida (while our home state of Minnesota gets buried in snow). Here’s three of those good reasons: SeaMax, Mermaid, and Drifter on Lotus floats. Float flying in winter is different…and fun! *** I have now flown the SeaMax three times. Yesterday we did three water and three land touchdowns. What a hot little flying boat. (Earlier SeaMax SPLOG) I use the word “little” literally…the amphib high wing LSA barely comes up to my chest and gross weight is only 1,144 pounds; LSA floatplanes can weigh 1,430 pounds. At this weight SeaMax performs brilliantly with the 100-hp Rotax 912S; 4800 rpm produces more than 100 mph. SeaMax has not yet finished its work to achieve SLSA status. But since this is the designer’s 22nd creation and as over 45 SeaMax aircraft have been sold into Europe and elsewhere, the task is not difficult, just time consuming.
My old friend Malcolm Jones* and Carlos Bessa will unveil a lovely amphibian LSA called SeaMax at the Sebring LSA Expo starting tomorrow. SeaMax by Brazilian producer AirMax intends to achieve Special Light-Sport Aircraft status but it has been cutting through waves in other countries for several years. SeaMax is a lighter amphibian, with gross weight at 1,144 pounds (a max of 1,430 is allowed). At 660 pounds empty, the composite seaplane yields a 484 pound useful load and can carry up to 25 gallons of fuel. SeaMax can lift off the water in only 325 feet. Electrically operated landing gear can be lowered into the water for taxiing onto a beach. SeaMax has a broad 46-inch wide cockpit and lots of attention to detail has been paid to the speedboat-like interior finish. * Malcolm operates a favorite hang gliding airpark called Wallaby Ranch just eight miles south of Disney Florida.