If it’s all about the flying, and you want to keep all the fun to yourself while getting airborne at a comparatively low cost, Chip W. Erwin, the founder of Aeromarine LSA, has an airplane to sell you.
Erwin is the creator of the Merlin PSA (personal sport aircraft, which is not an official FAA designation but is legal as a light sport aircraft) that will carry you skyward at a faster clip than many LSAs. The single-seat, amateur-built design took flight Feb. 12 in Lakeland, Florida, home of the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo, and Erwin reported Merlin’s fun quotient was high.
“The acceleration and climb rate are exhilarating,” Erwin said of his design in a news release Feb. 15. The aircraft is powered by a Rotax 582 two-cylinder engine producing 65 horsepower. At the gross weight of 715 pounds listed on the Aeromarine LSA website, Merlin’s power-to-weight ratio is 20 percent higher than a 1,320-pound aircraft with a 100-hp engine. Additional engine options, including the Pegasus O-100 and an electric alternative, are in the works.
Where Merlin really dusts the competition, albeit with only one seat, is price: A kit complete with engine, basic instruments, and a builder assist program that requires spending “a couple of weeks” at South Lakeland Airport, where the company is located, costs $34,900.
Available options include a matched set of Aeromarine amphibious floats with retractable wheels that can be raised or lowered with a mobile device using Bluetooth. The airplane also can be fitted with tundra tires for those who prefer a taildragger configuration. A well-equipped model with glass panel displays, autopilot, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out, a BRS parachute, and other options costs about $50,000.
The aluminum airframe was created on 3-D computer-aided design and manufacturing equipment, which resulted in assemblies with matched holes that require no fixtures, so “build time is measured in days rather than months,” the press release noted.
Erwin rolled his latest creation out at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, in January, and the demonstration airplane’s first flight followed soon after.
“Flight conditions were less than ideal, with gusty winds and choppy turbulence but the Merlin handles these conditions perfectly,” Erwin said in the press release. “The pilot sits right on the longitudinal axis and the wing loading is higher than the average LSA, so it is quite comfortable flying all day long. I was seeing cruise speeds over 100 mph and climb rates of 1,400 FPM.”