Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Searey LSX: SkyBoat Extraordinaire

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

More than 15 hull tests have been run. "We loaded and unloaded sandbags and concrete blocks for two days. The hull was taken to 150% of limit load, and passed everything with flying colors." Even more impressive: Kerry used a reject fuselage for the testing. "We took a worst-case hull, one that wouldn't have passed our own quality-control system."

A Hull Of A Plane
Plenty of cool features explain SeaRey's appeal to pilots bent on enjoying flight from both land and water runways. Reflecting the Richter family's ultralight background, the deep-chord, leading-edge sweep wings are fabric-covered, tube-and-ladder construction (with C-cell leading edge). The taildragger land configuration has a modest nose-high sitting angle: no major tail-swapping tendencies to worry about.

The pusher Rotax engine mounts just aft of the leading edge, on top of the wing, supported by a pylon. The hull is designed to generate a flat, low-profile spray pattern, to keep water out of the prop and engine compartment, and keep pilot and passenger, even with canopies open, cool and dry.

Boating around on the step is a hoot. You carve exhilarating turns using aerodynamic rudder, taking care to counterroll the wings with aileron for sharp turns so the inside tip doesn't bite the water.

A roomy interior (44 inches wide, same as a Cessna 182) includes side-by-side fabric seats that fit the body quite well, and are very comfortable. Dual slide-open canopies allow easy ingress, and you can fly with them open on warm days.

What else? Dual flight controls, a roomy panel for instrumentation, lots of storage space for outdoor gear and clothing behind the seats, well-placed hand controls, adjustable rudder/water rudder pedals, hand braking and more.

Once the SeaRey LSX is ASTM certified later this year, it will be offered in three forms: S-LSA, E-LSA (kit-built LSA) and EAB (experimental amateur-built). The company suggests the EAB kit takes about 700 hours to build. The E-LSA version will likely take less time and be more of an assembly project since the EAB 51% owner-fabricated rule doesn't apply...but owner customization isn't allowed, as it is with EAB kits, per the light sport rule.

There's an audible gear-warning device with two distinct voices (triggered by flaps or when airspeed drops below 51 knots), when it's time to lower gear for land ops—or pull it up for water. That's extremely handy: Nobody wants to do a water landing with gear down...or vice versa!

Landing the SeaRey on water is a breeze. The big stable wing and rudder make directional control a nonevent. Holding off at stall as the boat hull slides onto the water is so effortless. The sight picture is great, and the airplane responds well even at low speeds. And now I'm ready to get my water rating. Any SeaRey owners wishing to volunteer some seat time, please get in touch.

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