Glasair Aviation (previously Stoddard-Hamilton) is a storied aircraft company in the USA that has since 1980 manufactured aircraft kits. Previously, they achieved broad recognition for the Glasair II and III series of speedy retractables in several variations. They struck gold again with the Sportsman (formerly GlaStar) with its rugged capabilities. The company reports more than 1,200 of their aircraft are flying.
Merlin LSA is the company’s newest model and its first foray into fully-manufactured, ready-to-fly aircraft. This newest addition gives a complementary stable of aircraft entries to the Washington State enterprise now owned by Chinese investor and businessman, Tieji Fang.
Merlin is a composite high-wing using tricycle-gear airplane that flight schools prefer. Merlin uses a Rotax 912iS engine and has chosen Advanced Flight System glass-panel avionics (a company now associated with Dynon). An optional BRS parachute system is in development. Not offered as a kit, Merlin LSA carries a base price of $149,950.
According to my journalist friend, Al Marsh writing for AOPA, “[Glasair president Nigel] Mott contacted consulting engineer Chuck Hautamaki for [the Merlin] design.” Al added, “Special emphasis was placed on making the aircraft docile, especially when performing aerodynamic stalls.” Later, Glasair production manager and test pilot Ben Rauk coordinated with an outside engineer to investigate changes to the prototype seeking to reduce weight and improve speed.
Taking its first flight on April 7th, 2015, FAA subsequently accepted Merlin as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft in late March 2016. The company felt this pace was “a big deal for this pioneering kitplane manufacturer.”
“Much happened after we announced the first flight of Glasair Aviation’s Merlin Light-Sport Aircraft,” said company officials. “For nearly a year afterward, refinements and testing, testing, testing were the name of our game as we prepared our newest model plane to demonstrate compliance to ASTM standards and for production sales.”
Again quoting Al Marsh, “The flight controls resemble [those on the now discontinued] Cessna Skycatcher, but Mott told Cessna [that] under the panel [Merlin’s] side-to-side-sliding control stick uses entirely different engineering.” Marsh observed that with no stick coming up from the floor heavier and older pilots will discover easier entry.
“We will roll out the first production plane ready for pick up in June 2017,” said Glasair’s Rick Paul. “In the meantime we are constructing our beta models, allowing us to offer demo flights at our Washington state base beginning in February 2017.
Glasair elaborated, “We continue our hard work to make the Merlin as strong, safe, light and enjoyable as can be. In our minds, it is the perfect Light-Sport Aircraft for rusty pilots rediscovering the joy of easy weekend hops across the state. New pilots will enjoy its stable, easy handling and forgiving landing gear.” Certainly, occupants will appreciate Merlin’s roomy 47-inch-wide cockpit. Good lateral visibility combines with skylights to facilitate seeing traffic around busy destinations.
“All in all, [Merlin is] a great plane for sport pilots and flight schools alike,” Glasair expressed. For those wondering, Merlin is named after the smallest raptor, not the wizard.
“We are shooting to have a beta-model Merlin at Sun ‘n Fun 2017. I’ll keep you updated about that and production progress in general,” said marketing representative Rick Paul.
Merlin Specs — cruise 105 knots (121 mph); stall with no flaps 45 knots, with full flaps 39 knots; wing Span 31 feet 9 inches; wing area 132 square feet; cabin width 46.5 inches; baggage capacity 50 pounds; and, fuel capacity 24 gallons.