Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Searey LSX: SkyBoat Extraordinaire


Wings, webbed feet and wheels add up to the ultimate hybrid bird





The SeaRey's hull was designed to handle a decent-sized wave, but retain the ability to minimize drag and get off the water quickly. Above, the SeaRey LSX transforms from seaplane to land plane as it pulls out of a Florida lake onto the ramp.
I'm taking you along on this (really, really fun) demo to drive home one simple point: Here's an airplane you'd have to try to screw up really badly to get into trouble with. After five more minutes and some water landings of my own, I feel I could easily and safely solo the SeaRey—and I'm not even floatplane rated (yet).

They should put a photo of the SeaRey in the dictionary under "fun." I love its control feedback: It really talks to you. The feel isn't overly light or twitchy. As Richter notes, you have to tell it what you want, but when you do, it complies smoothly and firmly, and with consistent, confidence-inspiring predictability and a harmonized feel between pitch and roll. A bit of rudder helps going into turns. Pulling some more stalls, the big moveable flipper back there makes keeping the nose centered easy.

Richter talked me through a takeoff using only rudder. The SeaRey lifted off on its own, without even a tug on the stick, at 50 knots. Normally, you push the stick forward to get on the step (the forward part of the composite-construction hull for less-draggy, faster "boating"), then ease it back, build more speed, then pull off in six to eight seconds around 40 knots, and all in well under 400 feet.

Its easy-to-fly exuberance, and the pure fun factor of flying a boat with wings, are two main reasons why the SeaRey is a big success by any airplane maker's standards. More than 550 kits have been produced over the last 15 years, and are actively flown worldwide. SeaRey owner/pilots are a devoted, fun-loving bunch. There's even a Splash and Dash social website and regular gatherings, events and XC gaggle flights short and long.

S-LSA Bound
The SeaRey LSX has evolved to its current refined state over the years as an experimental amateur-built aircraft. Progressive Aerodyne is currently meeting the ongoing demand by producing nearly four kits per month. The small, three-generation family company also is cranking and banking on S-LSA certification. The U.S. distributor is SportairUSA.

Richter tells me the rigorous testing and documentation required for ASTM certification is being wrangled by an independent engineering firm with strong aerospace credentials. "We're making sure we're squeaky clean throughout the whole process; I want everything right if we ever have an FAA audit."





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