Saturday, 30 January 2010

Airborne at last (5)

I spent a very pleasant Saturday with Maule recently. They're amongst the nicest people you could hope to find in General Aviation and their Moultrie Georgia factory has a very family feel about it.

I took the oportunity to fly their soon-to-be-certificated M9 - basically an M7 with an increased MAUW and a 230hp Jet A burning SMA engine up front. As you would expect, the aeroplane retains Maule's STOL qualities and combines it with a decent 130kt cruise (it also retains Maule's handling, which doesn't quite lead the industry). At this speed you'll be burning about 8.5usg/hr. With UK avgas prices starting to hit and exceed £2 per litre, and with 100LL becoming extremely hard to find in some parts of the world, this ($275,000) aircraft looks like being a well-deserved winner for Maule.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Airborne at last (3 and 4)

With the dull grey skies of the UK many thousands of miles away, it's time for something a bit different. On the runway behind Jack Brown's Seaplane Base sits the German-registered amphibian that I'm about to fly. The Dornier can be configured to carry nine passengers and is powered by a couple of PT6s on top of the wing. These put out 1,300shp between them.

This being Florida, we take off and head for a local lake for some water landings and water handling. It's (obviously) huge fun and the combination of the hull and the power make taxying on the step easy and stable. The aeroplane is both EASA and FAA certificated and is yours for a smidge over $6m. The company has 39 orders, but (for now at least) no factory in which to build them. Watch this space.

The Dornier attracted a fair bit of attention from a couple of amphibian AirCam pilots, and before I had time to say 'pump out the floats' I was sitting in the back of one of their aeroplanes and heading for the runway. We took off and I flew a few landings on some local lakes - the speeds and distances are hugely different, but then the AirCam 'only' has 200hp (2 x Rotax 912ULS) and 'only' costs $100k for the kit (without floats). Water handling is a bit different and thanks to my inability to get us onto the step quickly enough, we got a bit of a soaking from the spray.

Both aircraft are huge fun, both are interesting, and both are less than entirely practical for the UK, but if I lived in Florida I'd be checking my bank balance, and once I'd confirmed that as nearly empty, I'd be looking for a share in an AirCam.

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