Pilots not closely following Light-Sport aviation can be excused for thinking only one LSA seaplane is available.
Established LSA companies like Progressive Aerodyne and its Searey or Scoda‘s Super Petrel or Airmax’s SeaMax or any number of aircraft to which floats have been fitted may be somewhat baffled by the outsized attention Icon Aircraft‘s long-delayed A5 receives from aviation and non-aviation media.
On the other hand, most leaders of these companies do admit that Icon’s media juggernaut also brings attention to LSA seaplanes in general.
With that in mind, are you ready for one that might out-WOW the A5?
You cannot ride a Wave today, but 2017 may be the breakout year for this impressively-configured LSA seaplane entry from the other down-under country of New Zealand.
Indeed, principal, Paul Vickers — the namesake of Vickers Aircraft — wrote at the end of 2016, “Great strides have been made in the past months here at Vickers. We may have appeared quiet, but we have been very busy preparing for 2017, which will prove to be an incredible year.”
Any company making a product as advanced as A5 or Wave (or Lisa or MVP) requires two ingredients never in sufficient supply, it seems: Time and money.
Reams have been written about Icon’s ambitious fundraising and the other developing LSA seaplanes just referenced have also been active in the finance arena.
Vickers was working hard at this 18 months ago, but found solid financial support a while back. This allows the company the ability to concentrate all its energies on finalizing the aircraft.
Paul confirmed this impression when he wrote, “We have secured funding from the USA that will allow us to expand our operations.”
He continued, “New machinery for carbon fiber part production and larger premises will streamline our processes.”
He noted that additional staff was hired to fill key roles to ensure smooth production and timely deliveries.
“I traveled to various U.S. states in 2016 to personally meet with potential investors and found the ideal partner in Florida,” said Paul. “Our new partner brings not only a vast wealth of aviation knowledge, but incredible American business experience which will ensure a strong and responsible Vickers brand in the USA.”
With adequate funds in place, Vickers is charging ahead.
You are reading it first here that Vickers recently moved into what it calls its “Stage 1 production facility,” located at Hamilton Airport in New Zealand. This first stage of three will enable Vickers to produce 30 to 40 aircraft a year, according to Paul.
“In this new temperature-controlled environment, production carbon fiber parts are being prepared in accordance with manufacturing procedures that have been finely tuned over years of development,” he explained. “It has always been of extreme importance to maintain control, quality, and cost over all components for the Wave. This has allowed for a modest investment and will result in an actual aircraft that will be both deliverable and affordable provided by an aircraft company that is sustainable.”
“We have been developing the processes to produce conforming production components and we are very close to beginning structural testing on production sub-assemblies, such as the wing carry thru and rear empennage.”
TenCate Advanced Composites USA has joined Vickers as a strategic partner to supply carbon fiber materials for Wave.
“TenCate is pleased to support Vickers Aircraft with carbon fiber epoxy prepreg and ancillary composite materials for the development and production of their Light-Sport Aircraft,” said David Clarke, CEO of TenCate. “We look forward to their successful introduction of this unique aircraft platform.”
“Working with TenCate’s superior products will enable us to produce an aircraft which will be of the highest quality, yet help keep weight within LSA specifications,” noted Paul. “TenCate is a leader in the aerospace composite industry and having them work with us to bring our aircraft to market will help make Wave exceptional.”
Most readers know that carbon fiber is wonderful to combine strength with low weight, but preparing the material for use on aircraft is an exacting effort.
“We have now acquired a critical part of our production process, a Zund carbon fiber cutting center,” said Paul. “The Zund cutting machine can cut carbon fiber at an astonishing three feet per second, ink mark part numbers and bar codes to integrate individual pieces of carbon fiber into our inventory system to ensure full traceability and correct placement during laminating.”
He added that the Zund cutter has the capacity to produce parts for more than 100 aircraft a year.
“We looked globally at other industry leaders and concluded that Zund was a standout within composite manufacturing companies,” reported Darryn Todd, VP of composites for Vickers.
Along with the fresh funding, Vickers has also appointed an American distributor for Wave.
“We are very pleased to have such strong support from the USA,” exclaimed Paul. “We are equally excited to have appointed a U.S. distributor in Florida, the ideal location for Vickers Aircraft USA.”