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blank 07/29/17 02:37PM AOPA, Low Cost Aircraft, Merlin

Inexpensive Merlin aircraft making gains

July 28, 2017

Pilot Chip Erwin described progress on the Merlin personal sport aircraft (PSA), a two-place tandem designed to lower the cost of flying. The Merlin cruises at 110 mph with higher wing loading and a higher power-to-weight ratio than a typical light sport aircraft, “and it’s $100,000 less expensive, so you’re paying a lot extra for a place to put your telephone.”

Merlin Aircraft

Erwin, who is recognized from his association with the Czechoslovakian-built SportCruiser LSA adopted and then ditched by Piper, said, “LSA’s are ridiculously expensive.” He explained that the $16,500 high-wing Merlin kit concept began as a way to combat the rising cost of new aircraft in the LSA class and to simplify basic construction techniques. “We’re raising the bar for experimental aircraft,” Erwin explained July 26 at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The Merlin kit has top skins and other parts that are basically pre-assembled in a Czech factory, leaving less work—and less room for error—during the final assembly stages. In a unique twist on a familiar phrase, he said “some disassembly is required” by builders who will be expected to layer in fuel, vacuum, and other systems. “The parts are already in,” he added, "but you have to take them off to comply with the 50-percent [homebuilt manufacturing] rule.”

There is a builder-assistance program for an additional $6,000, and Erwin said homebuilders “could have it finished with an A&P supervising them for about $38,000.” Avionics are additional, but he suggested that “for $38,000 to $45,000, you could have a really beautiful airplane” and “about a two-week build program. It’s a really, really a fascinating thing.”

Six aircraft are flying in the United States and 44 have been shipped. The aircraft kit, which comes with a ballistic recovery parachute, has passed European standards as a microlight. Erwin described the Merlin as “fun” to fly because of its “three-second takeoff roll and exceptional performance.” He said that the center of gravity “is not an issue and big people fit in comfortably.” It has ample baggage space so owners can carry a lot of gear to their favorite airshow or secret getaway.

“The Merlin is perfect for those who love to fly and for those who would love to fly,” Erwin said.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
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