April 26, 2012
By Sarah Brown
Photos and renderings by Lisa Airplanes
A sleek amphibious airplane from France that draws design inspiration from the world of high-speed sailing is preparing to make a splash in the United States.
Luxury aircraft company Lisa Airplanes is preparing its two-seat, composite Akoya for certification in the United States and Europe, and expects to make its first deliveries stateside in the spring or summer of 2013, U.S. Marketing Manager Vanessa Troillard told AOPA Online. The aircraft uses fin-like hydrofoils to reduce drag on takeoff from water and in the air, and comes equipped with retractable landing gear and skis. Troillard said the company expects to exhibit the aircraft in the United States for the first time this year at EAA AirVenture.
Company founders Erick Herzberger and Luc Bernole wanted to make a new generation of aircraft that could land on ground, water, or snow, Troillard said. While traditional floats work well on water, they increase drag significantly in the air, so the two men looked to the boating industry for insight.
And what better inspiration for an aircraft that floats than a boat that flies? The record-setting French sailboat the Hydroptère uses hydrofoils as underwater “wings” to lift the hull and floats of the craft meters above the sea surface, reducing drag and allowing the sailboat to top 50 knots over one nautical mile. Lisa Airplanes applied the same principles to its Akoya.
The hydrofoils, which the company dubs Seafoils, lift the airframe out of the water at about 15 knots, Troillard said, allowing the aircraft to pick up speed and take off in about 700 feet. But the main advantage is reduced drag in flight: “The aircraft goes faster in the air and has a better range,” she said. The company boasts a top speed of 135 knots in the European market and 120 knots in the United States, according to light sport restrictions; at economy cruise speed (103 knots), Lisa says the Akoya burns only 12.4 liters (3.3 gallons) per hour of Unleaded 95 fuel. That’s 36 mpg, the equivalent of many small cars. Its range is close to 600 nm at economy cruise speed and hits 810 nm with an optional extended-range tank. The aircraft has a Rotax 912 ULS FR 100-horsepower engine and comes equipped with a whole-aircraft parachute.
With sleek lines, a luxurious interior, and what the company calls “Multi-Access” technology, the Akoya represents Lisa Airplanes’ intention, as it states on its website “of creating a new aviation which suggests a change in lifestyle.” This new lifestyle gives owners the power of mobility, Troillard said.
“As Akoya can land on water, snow, and ground and with good speed and good range, you can almost take off from your home and go right to your final destination; and you don’t need to take any taxi or go to an airport and have all the security checks and everything,” she said. “We call it point-to-point trips. … You can choose to go wherever you want, whenever you want, with your wife or your friend.”
And, with a price tag of 300,000 Euros (about $396,000) for a “turnkey” package that includes training, a three-year warranty, three-year maintenance, and more, it’s also a lifestyle of luxury: With its wings folded, GQ France wrote in its April issue, the Akoya has the dimensions required for loading onto a yacht.
The Akoya made its first flight in 2007 and is currently in flight testing; the aircraft will be on static display at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. Troillard said Lisa will start production of compliant aircraft this summer and begin deliveries in France under a permit to fly in late 2012 or early 2013. She said the company will pursue certification as a special light sport aircraft (S-LSA) in the United States and then under the relatively new CS-LSA rules in Europe.
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