Now that we are in the middle of winter, activity is brisk. Middle of winter!? Down under in New Zealand, residents are presently in the colder months of the year. Pilots in U.S. states currently sweating through summer may need a moment to ponder that. New Zealand may be a long ways away but the Vickers Aircraft team building Wave are bringing their fascinating aircraft ever closer. As they work, they are gaining experience with new equipment used to build Wave LSA seaplanes. “Our tooling is all in place now,” said CEO Paul Vickers. “Initial parts are coming out of molds and they are matching the CAD files perfectly.” Modern design, even of more affordable aircraft, are often fully created on computer work stations. The days of hand making a prototype are passed and the older way is nearly extinct. “We’ve also recently doubled the size of our facilities,” added Paul.
Among all Light-Sport Aircraft, some of the most intriguing new design qualities are emerging from LSA seaplanes. Icon’s A5 has gained a ton of attention but here’s a new entry from Vickers Aircraft of New Zealand. This aircraft is -not- yet flying (as of late 2016) but is such an innovative engineering exercise that we wanted to interview designer Paul Vickers when he was in the USA arranging aspects of Wave’s debut in America. Stay tuned; we’re sure to have more!
Unless you’ve had your mind on other pursuits — oh, for example, preparing to head to Sun ‘n Fun 2016 next week (the show runs April 5-10) — you could hardly miss the growing buzz surrounding Icon. A soft whistle of air escaping the cabin turned into a deafening roar as Aero-News.Net (always fast with news), AOPA online, AVweb and others piled on to a story about Icon’s 40-page A5 purchase contract. Credible journalistic work was done by Jim Campbell, Jim Moore, and Paul Bertorelli (respectively of each of the publications mentioned above) in documenting the behemoth contract. I have an opinion too — one part respectful of the California company’s wish to protect their brand and their investment and and one part saying, “What the…?” I see no reason to delve into further than the lengthy stories my fellow writers already posted. Instead, I like following what’s new in Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralights.
Big power is not just for LSA taildraggers anymore. A few years back, CubCrafters surprised the LSA world with its installation of the most powerful engine in the LSA space. The western U.S. company mounted a Titan engine from ECi making the modest Cub-like airframe perform far better than the old versions from the Piper company. At the time, this potent powerplant raised eyebrows for two reasons. First, it seemed an excess of power for the then-new lightweight class of airplanes FAA had just regulated into existence. Most had been using one of the 9-series engines from Rotax, which in some cases was itself a move up from a two-stroke Rotax 582 providing 65 horsepower. CubCrafters limited power after takeoff to maneuver within the regs, though, honestly, who would continue using so much power in cruise or while sight seeing? Secondly, the Cub-style airframe is already near the upper LSA empty weight calculation so CubCrafters’ engineers had to add many costly carbon fiber elements to keep the empty weight low enough to fit in the class.
As I’ve written a few times, I see a dichotomy in LSA designs. Landplanes appear to have entered a “mature” phase, where changes are incremental, evolutionary rather than revolutionary, if you will. I see nothing wrong with that. To the contrary, it speaks to an industry that knows where it is going and how to achieve design goals. Electric propulsion is still stirring things considerably (witness several recent articles here and elsewhere) but electric motors can work on landplanes or seaplanes. To my view, it appears the lead in the most innovative design is being done in LSA seaplanes. Perhaps this was triggered by Icon and their A5. The California entry is handsome and well enough marketed to collect many orders. While finally coming to market A5 has been a decade in preparation. This left the door open for more highly innovative entries Meanwhile existing designs such as Searey and Super Petrel have been much refined and have demonstrated meeting ASTM standards with Searey also achieving Chinese Type Design Approval.
After a rush of interest owing to earlier reports (see here and here), the team at Vickers Aircraft went head down and began pushing even harder on their fascinating new amphibious LSA seaplane entry called Wave. As you can see by the photos, they’ve now unveiled the overall appearance though additional details of this rather distinctive creation will be released as components are fitted and evaluated. Meanwhile, for those who want more, principal designer Paul Vickers added, “I am pleased to inform that our Vickers Aircraft website is now live. We invite pilots around the world to come have a closer look and to observe which companies we are engaging as partners. “We have achieved our production weights on completed assemblies,” noted Paul, including wings, tail stabilizers, controls, and composites structures such as the cockpit and sponsons.” Vickers says they achieved this by strategically combining aluminum and carbon fiber.
Following our initial unveil of a new amphibian called “Wave” by Vickers Aircraft Company, more details were offered in their programmed slow-motion rollout of a new amphibian LSA candidate. In this update we hear about who will supply the prop and see some of the hardware components. I was informed that response was brisk after the last article suggesting the tempting way facts are released developed a sense of intrigue. One thing not said earlier is that principal Paul Vickers spent years in marine hull design and fabrication, addressing that aspect of engineering competency. As to the aerodynamic side, Paul wrote, “We are confident in achieving our performance figures as we have spent the pat three years producing and studying the hydrodynamics and aerodynamics needed for our particular flight envelope.” Vickers provided performance info to Catto props who developed and delivered a specific propeller to maximize to the airflow produced by Wave’s pusher configuration.
I’ve written a number of articles about LSA seaplanes … about the several we already have in the fleet (Aventura news), and about new designs to come (quick tour of many new LSA and Ultralight seaplanes). One of new ones is called Wave from Vickers Aircraft Company and the new entry is starting to peek from behind the dark curtain. Along with other designs in development, the Vickers project merits close attention as it offers genuine out-of-the-box thinking. Previously I agreed not to say more, governed by a non-disclosure agreement. However, at AirVenture 2013 I ran into Director and principal designer Paul Vickers. After talking about his sponsorship of EAA’s Young Eagles program Paul told me he was finally ready to make some announcements about his project. Following are a couple glimpses. Another man with inside knowledge said, “This is the coolest, sexiest aircraft coming to market.