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News from the Czech Republic

News from the Czech Republic

For those who may not know I lived in the Czech Republic for some 20 years and built up one of the biggest light aircraft companies in Europe. From that time I have many friends and connections in the aviation industry there and we continue to work together from time to time. Now those relationships are increasing in importance as we have set up an assembly facility for the Merlin PSA and 2 sizes of floats (800 and 1450).

The value of these relationships is huge. I am working with colleagues that started with me in the early 1990s and not only are excellent aircraft technicians but good and trusted friends. This means I know what to expect from them in terms of quality and responsibility. And they know they can rely on me for orders, hardware from USA, and various specifications.

In October I spent a week in the Czech Republic visiting the facility that produces the Merlin parts and the facility that assembles the Merlin. A main objective was to clarify the quick build specifications so we will comply with the 51% E-AB rule yet minimize the time and skills required to complete the kit. This action was accomplished and now 8 QBKs are in assembly. I should point out that 6 Merlin kits are already finished but to 100% which of course is too far past the 51% compliance point. Those kits are going to customers in the UK and New Zealand that have microlight rules that allow the delivery of completed aircraft

Here is what the almost 100% finished kits look like:


Remaining work is only adding the gear, door, and windows. Depending on packing issues and customer requests these Merlins may be shipped after a little more work, or with engines and cowl installed and the airframe painted. We have excellent paint booths and painters in both facilities.


Above is a Rotax 582 installed on the Merlin and the next photo shows a new HKS engine which will be installed on a customer’s Merlin. This is important: These engines are installed ‘on the computer’ first meaning the exact dimensions are plugged into the 3D software then the cowl, engine mount, and all the accessories such as the muffler, radiators, throttle, choke, oil reservoirs, etc. are virtually fitted. Once the 3D model works with everything fitting correctly then the parts and fittings are fabricated. Then one engine is mated to one Merlin and everything theoretically fits perfect. If it doesn’t, then some adjustments are made to the computer model. This work is huge for the customer. Historically kit assembly bogs down when it get to the engine installation. Ever heard the phrase 90% done and 90% to go? Too much is left to the builder for fabrication and/or interpretation. That also can result in safety issues. Over the years we have read dozens of incident reports due to engine failures on early flights.

I call this ‘plug & play’ installation. All the fittings are provided and perfect, all the hardware is supplied, 3D schematics leave no doubt about what goes where. No language issues.

Now we know the 582 and the HKS are the current engines of choice and these firewall forward packages are designed and in the process of test-fitting. Perhaps the next step is to pre-cut some instrument panels. We have already started that as well but that is not so important as nearly everyone is going to want something different in their panel. Not to leave anything out we have also commissioned upholstery packages to be fabricated by one of our past suppliers.


In related news the Merlin with the HKS installed is finished except for paint and ready to fly. I bet you would like to know how it sounds! Here is a YouTube link:

My friend Graham Smith from the UK was also visiting CZ. We both made several high-speed taxi tests. The consensus is that the HKS is quiet and smooth. But we already know that. The real question is the acceleration and it was excellent! We reached flying speed in about 3 seconds, similar to the 582. So there is really no doubt that the total performance envelope will match the 582 specs but with less fuel consumption and longer TBO. Perfect.

However news is not all good. HKS announced a price increase of $682 beginning 1 January, 2017. Place your engine orders this year.


Last week I flew the Merlin to the Florida Airshow at Punta Gorda for the weekend. Next week is the Deland Showcase which is much more light aircraft oriented and runs 3-5 November. Come visit!


Real beer!



Chip W. Erwin
South Lakeland Airport
Lakeland, FL

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