It may seem like the dead of winter if you’ve already been grappling with heavy snows across America’s north. Therefore, it must be time to shop for boats, right? And if that sounds reasonable, why not a seaplane?
Saturday, Nov. 14, was the final day of the last airshow of 2019. The 2019 DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase suffered its chilliest weather of the four years it has been operating.
Nonetheless, my unscientific survey of airshow vendors jibed with numerous comments from individual pilots: Despite the less-than-ideal weather this year, sales of aircraft and other aviation gear proceeded. Show organizers said attendance was up more than 20% this year and every planned exhibitor space was sold.
Given this year’s uncharacteristic chill, the 2019 running of the Deland Showcase bore a resemblance to the boat shows I used to marvel at in my former home of Minnesota. How’s that?
In that northern, almost-Canada state, huge boat shows were staged in the dead of winter, when snow and ice covered the surface and most boats were hidden in warm storage facilities. Why put on a boat show then? Because decisions to acquire a new boat happen months before the lakes thaw.
Likewise, heading into winter is a great time to plan for spring when recreational aircraft come out of hangars and take to the warming skies. Given a few months lead-time for a new aircraft — common to most builders — ordering in fall can mean delivery as flying season arrives across the continent.
Here’s Seamax, an LSA Seaplane
If you can buy boats in Minnesota when the temperatures are -20°, why not consider a sweet little seaplane like Seamax. I call it “little” deliberately, not just to be charming (though I think that adjective qualifies as well).
Seamax designer Miguel Rosario acknowledged my judgment that Seamax is a performance aircraft within the Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) seaplane category.
How does the aircraft earn such a call? In one simple way: Empty weight is a surprisingly low 715 pounds. Many land-only LSA weigh considerably more and they lack Seamax’s retractable gear and boat hull. Fabric-covered wings are one of many ways Miguel keeps Seamax weight on a diet.
Indeed, Miguel believes the 100-horsepower, carbureted, Rotax 912 ULS is a beautiful engine choice with a lower price tag, lower weight, and less complexity that makes for easier installation.
However, because many LSA pilots like the idea of the newer, more fuel-efficient, fully electronically-controlled engine from Rotax, Seamax Aircraft displayed a fresh new model with a 912iS engine and loaded with a beautiful dual screen Garmin G3X Touch instrument panel. The plane at DeLand was already sold to a customer, so even the seats still had plastic protective covers on them.
In the days before the show started, a Seamax delegation toured new facilities — called the Sport Aviation Village — investigating the city’s new incubator project at DeLand Municipal Airport. I inquired if they would remain at their location at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
The answer is yes, because Embry Riddle offers the company, for one example of many, access to a wind tunnel that few other light airplane producers can employ. In addition, students at the university assisted with a Seamax customer survey that was valuable to the company. Having such a prestigious address associated with their name is never a bad thing.
Yet for the messier process of manufacturing these airplanes in the U.S. — which remains a goal — DeLand’s new development across the field from the Showcase event was a worthwhile exploration for the Brazilian company. Because DeLand and Daytona Beach-based Embry Riddle are only a 20-minute drive apart, this can be a workable combination.
Talking to Miguel and U.S.-based-representative Shalom Confessor, both acknowledged that after a gradual start to establishing an American outlet they are seeing more activity from U.S. buyers. They seem pleased with the state of sales development in America.
In addition to proven performance and luxury boat styling, Seamax also offers folding wings that can be done by one person, using a handy disconnect lever at the wingtip. This allows trailering or storage in a fraction of the hangar space needed by airplanes without folding wings.
When I asked Miguel about his Norway market, a country that gave a nice boost initially to Seamax, he said interest remained strong in that Nordic country, but the USA now represents the company’s largest single target market.
Manufacturing in the USA is an activity that could also support export sales to other countries. The process may be easier for worldwide distribution than from Brazil, which presents exporting difficulties. Presently, more than 150 Seamaxes are flying around the world.
Miguel seems one of those always-on designers, never resting. While I agreed not to reveal any plans in the works, the years ahead could foresee interesting new developments for this company and this designer. Having achieved so much already, it’s worth paying attention to what Miguel Rosario does. I will certainly do so.
Meanwhile, as winter’s cold descends upon most Americans, let’s all start preparing for a fine, safe year of flying in 2020. Happy Holidays, all!