Seawind races towards certification

The Seawind 300C, billed as the world’s fastest seaplane, is racing towards certification. The amphibian, which began as a kit, is going through dual certification in Canada and the U.S.

While initial plans had called for certification in 2004, financing issues slowed the process. But those problems are behind the company now, as final funding, which will get the Seawind through certification and first deliveries, has been put in place, according to Bill Poirier, the company’s new marketing and sales manager. Funding came through as a loan, he explains, declining to reveal just how much was received.

The force behind the Seawind is Richard Silva, who acquired the company from the Creelman family of Canada in the mid 1990s. The head of that family developed the design after building a toy for his child. The aircraft was refined as a kit and has been moving towards certification for the past few years. Powered by a 300-hp Lycoming engine, the certified version promises a top speed at 100% power of 174 kts (200 mph), with a cruise speed at 75% power of 165 kts. The four-place amphibian, which has a range of 980 miles, has a useful payload of 1,000 pounds.

About 75% to 80% of the certification process is complete, according to Poirier. All tests for certification are being conducted in Canada. Transport Canada then shares its results with the FAA. Sometimes, Poirier says, the two agencies are present at the tests, such as the recent seat testing.

The process has reached a point where most of the individual pieces have been produced and the company is building the production aircraft, he says.

The certified aircraft should be complete in the fall, with first flight slated for shortly after that. Certification is expected by the end of this year, with first customer deliveries beginning in January.

“The Transport Canada certification process allows us to produce airplanes in accordance with our plan,” Poirier says. “Then, as we do the flight testing and we find something that needs to be changed, each aircraft that has been produced must have those changes implemented. We don’t expect any significant changes after structural tests since the aircraft has been flying for over 14 years.”

Parts for the first two aircraft are ready to be assembled, he notes. They will be demonstrator models for the company, which plans to produce 24 aircraft in 2006 and 50 or 60 in 2007 at its manufacturing facility on the airport in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec. Employment, which now stands at 40, is expected to ramp up to 200 when in full production.

Order book for the certified model stands at 20, with interest high, according to Poirier. “We have a newsletter that goes to 1,150 people and a list of 850 names of people who have received demos or contacted us with interest in the certified Seawind,” he says. Some of those interested are people who put deposits down on a kit, and three people who purchased kits are now purchasing the production model. “No more kits are being produced,” Poirier adds.

Originally priced at $289,700, the Seawind 300C now sells for $294,700. That’s the VFR model. The company is still investigating IFR options, with officials in discussions with Garmin, Avidyne and Chelton on a glass cockpit for the Seawind. “That decision will be made very soon,” Poirier says.

The people behind Seawind say it is much more than a seaplane. “It’s a marvelous plane that just happens to land in the water,” Poirier says. “We like to compare it to other new composite land planes.”

But, of course, the Seawind does land in the water, as well as the land, so it has some options that make seaplane operations easier, including a built-in outboard motor that should allow owners to “chug along at 4 to 6 kts,” according to Silva. There’s a place to store fish and even a canopy camper top, which allows two people to sleep in the cabin. Owners do not have to have a seaplane rating to buy a Seawind, according to Poirier. Transition training is provided with each purchase. The two-day program covers aircraft systems, flight training proficiency, which is expected to include four hours of instruction time and some solo time; and avionics system training.

Seawind also has created its own insurance company for hull coverage. “Insurance has always been extremely high,” Silva says. “For amphibians it was even worse, with the extra element of ever-changing water conditions.”

He anticipates that the hull coverage for owners who plan to use the Seawind only as a land plane will cost about $5,000. After a few years of safe operation, premiums should fall to about $3,500. Seaplane insurance will begin at $9,000, but, again, will diminish to about $6,000 after a few years of safe operation. On average, premiums will fall about 10% a year as pilots continue to train and build hours, he explains.

Because it is a high-performance plane, the Seawind is not an airplane for people who are just learning to fly, Poirier adds. “However, we do have some low-time pilots who are buying one or interested in it,” he says.

For more information: 610-917-1120.

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