New kit lines

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orion

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Hi all;

For approximately the last two years our company has been quietly evaluating the possibility of entering the kit market. With our nearly twenty five year involvement in the "Experimental" and certified industries, we feel that we can develop a unique line of products that will be attractive to a wide variety of pilots and kit enthusiasts.

Along with examining the potential markets, we were also researching several key technologies relating to materials and construction techniques. The successful incorporation of these manufacturing and assembly methods will allow us to develop a line of kits that will be characterized by excellent performance, high levels of durability and of course the ultimate goal, ease of assembly.

Originally, we were looking at two similar airplane lines that used two different fabrication techniques. Recently, we have finally concluded that the more involved concept will make the superior product. This second concept represents a higher level of performance as well as a more advanced method of assembly. The physical configuration is based on a bonded aluminum structure, based in part on factory fabricated sandwich components. The resulting structural configuration will allow us to supply the builder with a level of kit completeness, service strength and durability, so far unavailable in the industry. The configurations, ranging in size from one seat to four, would be designed for higher power levels, thus delivering very capable high performance airplanes to the builder, at a reasonable price.

We will be posting more information as the design matures and as more data becomes available. Construction of the first prototype (a high performance single seat) will commence next month (December 2004), followed closely by the second prototype, which will be a two seat tandem layout. Engines for both aircraft will range in capacity from 160 hp to 260 hp.
 

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dustind

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Saint Michael, Minnesota
Did you just change your web site? I was there a few minutes ago and my internet connection died on me. When I came back I could not find the other possible kit.

The higher performance model is closer to what type of plane I am looking into.

Will this be acrobatic like the RV and Rocket line?

Will a tail dragger version be offered? Retractable gear tail dragger? Will it be able to land on rough grass fields?

I am not familiar with the materials. How hard is it to repair the body in a minor crash? Could it be repaired if you went out of business?

Would rotary engines with a bit more power fit and fly well in the tandem model?

Could you guess at the dry weight, and cruise speed of the tandem version?

When do you expect to have the first one flying?

I love the concept, keep up the good work.
 

orion

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Wow, questions already. And yes, I did just change the web site.

The design concept of the airplane is such that it will be far stronger and durable than anything currently available. The penalty for this however is that the airplanes will weigh a bit more than the more conventional competitors. The goal however is more than what others strive for - these will be high performance, fun airplanes that have the "feel" of a larger and heavier "certified" model, rather than a light homebuilt. The designs endeavor to maintain the crisp handling of sport aircraft, as well as the capability of doing moderate aerobatics. The aero design however is more for cross-country flight than aerobatics and as such, the aerobatic capability will be more for fun than for competition or show.

There is no tail-dragger version planned - this is due to some of the unique structural and configuration features, which currently I do not wish to work around to reposition the gear or modify the wing. Structurally there should be no problem and in the future, if someone wants to do the work, I'm sure it should be relatively easy, but for now, a tailwheel version has not even been envisioned.

The structural design is better than Part 23 so yes, it will be able to operate from grass and gravel strips with no difficulty.

The materials are standard aerospace aluminum, mostly 6061-T6; 2024-T3 is used in higher stress areas. Most repairs can be made using standard practices. Removal of bonded components can be done although at this point in time I have not done any extensive test to verify this on a large scale. I have debonded test coupons, but this adhesive is very strong, even heated, and the debonding was not easy.

Regarding engines, the configurations are designed flexible on purpose so that virtually any engine can be used as long as it delivers the necessary power and the aircraft is able to remain in balance. As such, a 20B should be no problem.

The tandem model should fly quite well with as little as 160 hp. There will be two wing options so a customer should be able to match up his engine budget and his performance goals quite well.

With a fixed gear, a fixed prop, and about 260 hp, the two place tandem conservatively calcualtes out for a maximum speed at sea level of about 235 mph. If I get a bit more optimistic about the drag and the prop efficiency, the max speed works out to close to 250 mph.

The empty weight for the single place aircraft, with the IO-540 calculates out at this point to just over 1,200 pounds. With 60 gallons of fuel (the leading edge has sufficient volume for over 90 gals), a large pilot and a bunch of baggage, the gross weight can be as high as 1,900 pounds.

With a smaller engine, the empty weight looks to be about a thousand pounds - the gross about 1,600.

Extrapolating these numbers to the two place tandem, the empty weight with the 540 should be about 1,300 pounds, give or take a bit, and the design gross weight will be about 2,400 pounds.

To this point though, I've only completed the first couple of structural design goarounds so the weights at this point are still flexible.

If all goes well, especially if I can free up (or attract) sufficient funds to really push this along, the first flight can be as early as the third quarter of 2005, but at this point don't hold me to that.
 
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dustind

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Saint Michael, Minnesota
Thank you for the information.

Do you mean your airplane will be safer in a low speed crash?

Would retractable gear be possible? Just modifying the kit to accept something like http://www.infinityaerospace.com/infgear.htm would be great.


The ""feel" of a heavier certified model" has me a bit confused. Would the feel be similar to the 1200 lbs 540ci powered F1 Rocket? The rocket and RVs are too fast and slippery to do competitive acrobatics, but are said to be very fun to fly by all of the builders that I have talked to. When I think of heavy certified airplanes I picture high wing six seaters.

Do you have an estimated cost? Will the kit price be in the same class as rockets, RVs, $20,000 ish give or take several thousand.

What you are designing seems to be exactly what I am looking for. Good luck with your project, I hope it works out.
 
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orion

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Wow, amazing what one finds at this site - I haven't seen this retract system before, and yes, assuming it's designed to meet the airframe requirements, such a mod should work quite well.

But to your questions:

Yes, this airplane will be substantially more robust since the construction components, assembly techniques and material gauges are all designed to provide a level of durability and occupant protection far above what is called for in most existing designs. The combination of these techniques will make the structure much more stable, even in a high impact situation.

Regarding the "feel", I should probably be careful in making such a blanket statement. What I meant was that when I fly in something like an RV or most other metal homebuilts (and actually many certified airframes), the airplane feels like the classic "tin can". It does not "feel" robust, despite the airplane's excellent history and safety record. As an example, most of the RV is made from .020" aluminum. Our airplane is based on .032" sheet (wings and fuselage), reinforced with 1/2" thick honeycomb cored sandwich panel frames and bulkheads. The airframe also incorporates four, one inch square, 1/8" wall extrusions, which extend from the firewall back to the aft tailcone bulkhead, as well as additional side stringers for additional panel stability. All this, coupled with the extremely high contact area and load path redundancy achieved through bonding, will make our airplane "feel" much more solid than virtually all other metal designs currently flying, including many certified models.

I haven't flown an F1 Rocket, but based on the weight and power level, I would assume our performance should be on par.

As far as the cost is concerned, we are shooting for the basic kit to run in the neighborhood of the mid twenties, possibly less, depending on the level of factory completed and included components. We are not planning to have a "quick build" kit, however it is our goal to have the basic kit configuration similar to many of the "quick build" options currently available.
 

Othman

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Bonded aluminum sounds expensive. What is the projected price range for the 1 - 4 seater kits (compared to RV's or other competators)? Will the builder do most of the bonding or will the seams be factory bonded?
 

orion

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The price range for the single seater is expected to be in the low to mid twenties while the two place tandem will be a few thousand higher. The final material costs will drive some of this, as will the eventual kit completeness. I'll know better once I get further along on the first prototype.

The materials for the first POC are already ordered and on their way, so I hope to start construction probably within the next two to four weeks.

We are going to try to do as much prefabrication as possible at the factory (we'll see what the FAA lets us get away with) however many bonds will be left up to the builder. (I figure it's a lot better and faster than thousands of rivets.) Currently we foresee that the standard airplane kit will be provided in pretty much the same form that an RV quick build kit comes today.

The bonding process is not expensive nor too complex, although the adhesve itself is somewhat pricey - about twice that of a premium epoxy (but the airplane does not use all that much of it). The process takes advantage of this newest bonding technology developed specifically for aluminum alloys. It is currently being standardized for the automobile industry where current production of aluminum components is done solely through this type of bonding.
 

Othman

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Looks like a nice airplane, and I'm sure it will be a successful design in terms of performance. From a marketing point of view I would worry about how to introduce bonded metal structure to builders/buyers who might be concerned about it.

I noticed that builders develop a materials preference pretty early on, and form support groups resulting in lucrative T-shirt sales with slogans like "friends don't let friends fly plastic airplanes" or Calvin peeing on a Ford logo. So I think you have to help people get comfortable with your innovative techniques.

Maybe you can produce two versions... one that uses the bonded structure, and one that uses good old fashion rivets. You might double your market that way.
 

orion

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... or the attempt may dramatically increase overhead and production costs, thus making any such kit line modification totally unworkable within a small company environment. (Yes, we already discussed and analyzed this option about a year ago.)

Changing the basis of any design, especially a dramatic modification such as going from a bonded structure to one that depends on rivets, is actually a significant undertaking. In order for that to work in today's market, a significat investment has to be made in the design and fabrication techniques, so as to be able to produce kits that technologically resemble the matched hole fabrication concepts as presented by RV and Murphy. It works great for them, but it took a long time to develop and optimize. Given the benefits of our approach, we determined the riveted option was not worth the effort and cost.

Any good product, presented to any market, will succeed (or not) on its own merits. Yes, there will be some nay-sayers, but we're not trying to sell to them. Those folks will most likely not be interested in learning about the benefits of this type of fabriction (nor about the ability to not buck 20,000 rivets) and trying to convince them, would be the business equivalent of beating one's head against the wall.

However, being able to demonstrate substantial safety factors, along with dramatically reduced building times, should convince many of those who may be intitially skeptical that our approach has significant merit. We understand that this may take some time, but we also understand that this is not an overnight business. Of course only time will tell whether our approach to the product or to the marketing is realistic, but having been in this business for nearly twenty five years, we're at least encouraged that our approach is in the right direction, that this is a technology that will benefit many builders and that our designs can succeed in the long run.

For now, we'll keep our fingers crossed. Taking heed of others' mistakes, we are not making any publicity splashes or announcements - I just thought that the members of this board might be interested in what might be coming in the near future, so this brief announcement is the only one that will be out, at least until we physically finally get off the ground.
 
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Falco Rob

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Orion,

I've followed your posts with increasing interest since I discovered this site, and I have to say that if anyone can pull this off, you and your team would be the ones to do it.

All the best - long live rivet free aeroplanes !

(Apologies to Captain John and about 3,500 other RV'ers!)

Rob
 

Jman

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Great to hear, I'm really looking forward to seeing this new line of kits on the market. I'm sure there was a tremendous amount of negativity about fiberglass construction back in the day but it did not stop the canard invasion.

Thanks for choosing to share the news here on this site. You've been a huge contributor over the life of this site and I wish you the very best of luck.
 

Othman

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"Any good product, presented to any market, will succeed (or not) on its own merits. Yes, there will be some nay-sayers, but we're not trying to sell to them" - Orion

I've been thinking about your statement, which I quoted above, and I concluded that I will disagree with it.

Image and marketing will be the make/break of your product. Too many times in history did superior products, policies, politicians... get turned down for an inferior counterpart. I've even seen it in my own workplace.

Those nay-sayers that you ignore, will not ignore your product. They will be busy spreading their opinions and winning people over to their side, thus reducing your potential market. You may argue that the opposite is true too. Lobbyists for your side will be winning people over. That's true, but historically it takes a lot more effort to convince people of change as opposed to no change.

Leaving the marketing responsibilities to the product alone will probably not get you as far as you would like. Remember that a good salesman can sell a flashlight to a blind person.
 

orion

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That is actually a very good point and I agree with it whole-heartedly. There are many products that failed (or are struggling), despite them being superior to their competitors, due to poor strategy or misunderstanding of market forces.

However, in the same breath, I have to point out that the aviation marketplace tends not to follow the standard rules and trends that commonly apply to other fields. Marketing for aviation and aviation related products is a whole seperate discipline that commonly requires a specialized view and understanding of not only the product, but of the consumer as well. This especially applies to airframes. Not understanding the differences between standard marketing strategy and the one we have to use for aviation is one of the primary factors that continually contribute to the failure of many new (and even established) airframe producers, even when they have good products.

First of all, the aviation buyer is not the average consumer. The product he (or she) is buying is very specialized and requires a certain amount of specialized knowlege in order for him to make the final selection. This is expected by the companies selling, and accepted by the folks buying. As such, presenting the technical benefits of a product in a responsible and understandable way goes a long way to convincing not only the individual who is somewhat "on-the-fence" in the decision process, but also the one who may have initially been one of the skeptics.

As Jake pointed out above, there has been a lot of initial criticism of fiberglass and/or canard airplanes at the point of their introduction, and in some circles, continues to be to this day. That however has not kept many good designs from entering and prospering in the market. Yes, some took longer to get established, but a good history, performance and safety record convinced many of the benefits of either apporach.

The glaring failures tend to have the commonality of poor technical design. The more subtle failures though do not have as obvious a blame, but generally can be attributed to a poor entrance strategy, a poor sales technique and a lack of applicable foresight.

In our case, we do not expect the world to beat a path to our door. I think we pretty well understnd that the marketing of any new airplane venture may take two to three years before a substantial amount of sales begin to trickle in (very few potential customers want to be the first in this field). But ours is a long term plan and I think we pretty well understand the pitfalls and mistakes of past failures (at lesat I hope we do).

But enough of that - back to the grind.
 

orion

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About half a dozen people called within the last couple of days, asking about the size of the airplane. To answer that basic question, the best I can do is post the side layout view on which the loft is based. The picture depicts the proportions of the airframe and a 6'4" pilot, complete with backpack chute and helmet. Being 6'4" myself, I tend to design larger, more comfortable layouts since I consider most homebuilts a rather tight fit.

For the two place tandem configuration, the seating is such that the aft passenger's feet come just short of the pilot's seat - in other words, the aft passenger will not have to straddle the front seat to fit. This will also allow the back seat to have a fully instrumented panel, if one so desires.
 

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sonex293

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Very Cool! I'm currently building a Sonex but will definitely be keeping an eye on this one for the next project.

--Michael
Sonex #293
 
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Gluing of aluminum seems like a good idea but only until you start actually doing it. Everybody who has tried it in the past run into big problems and either redesigned to rivets, abandoned the project or got killed. These failures are generally well known but yet people keep coming out with the idea again and its usually the new “Great glue” “they” didn’t have before. That despite the fact that the Glue has not been the problem, the Aluminum is the problem and that doesn’t change.
I would like to know what you were able to figure out that they couldn’t, that is not expensive nor too complex and is proven to withstand the decades of time and service the planes are expected to.
The comparison to the new aluminum bonded chassis technique is not valid, their technique is to design and produce complex extruded and formed shaped parts that interlock one into the other using tongue grove/large area joints for bonding, that way once assembled the loads are transferred through the interlocked shapes and not by the glue bond. The car chassis is a very compact shape and subject to loads very different then an airplane which is very spread out shape. And by the way those aluminum bonded chassis can’t be repaired, once damaged a new chassis has to be bought and the car rebuild around it.
Designing an aluminum bonded structure of an airplane using of the shelf stock of sheet bar and angles is nothing like that, and far more difficult because with that you “do” have to rely on the sheer and bond strength of the glue in the design and that’s before you account for the builders inconsistencies screw ups and nonexistent environment and quality control. Even if you can do it right yourself you can’t insure “They” will, I have seen botched up constructions in ways that I newer thought were possible. If you can’t make this “Fool proof” they will do you in. Even if nobody gets hurt or killed The day the first bond comes apart and the word gets out that the bonds can’t be relied on, everything built up to that day will become worthless and all the money and effort an the project wasted.
I have my own rule of not telling people what to do and what not to do but in this case because I lost my best friend and a partner when his aluminum glued wing broke in flight, I feel like I had to say this and its only this one post I make. I will let the Cheerers take over from here

George
 

orion

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I actually do agree with you George - the bonding of aluminum has been promised by many and actually accomplished only by few. The techniques of doing so successfully have generally been rather process intensive, and subject to many potential failure mechanisms. Having worked for Boeing and General Dynamics for some time, I've certainly seen several approaches that held promise, but in the end had only limited application.

I have also been involved some years back with Grumman airplanes, which as you know were produced strictly through bonding. Yes, their processes went through "teething" problems, which for the most part were eliminated throughout the last several years of production.

Due to my own interest in the possibilities, I've been researching the processes and applications of bonding aluminum for probably more than fifteen years now, each time following some grandiose promises, only to find out later, in my own tests, that the results were far from satisfactory.

It's only within the last five years or so that I began to see several promising adhesive formulations (from Plexus and 3M, among others) that seemed to behave well when bonding aluminum metals and oxides. The last set of adhesives I came accross only recently, and tested just earlier this year. The results were quite amazing, especially since I went into the process with only a few, or no, expectations.

Regarding your post though, there is one example where the automakers have used bonding for some time now, that involve high stressed parts with no interlocking or self jigged pieces. Have you ever looked at the door hinge on a Blazer (and several other GM parts and cars)? The hinge itself is only bonded to the kingpost. No flanges or interlocking pieces, no bolts, not even any spot welds - just a simple butt-joint bond. True, this application is steel-to-steel (which has many more bonding opportunities) but it certainly does demonstrate the potential of such manufacturing.

Regarding your other comments, one of the drives behind bonding in the automotive industry is the ability to make simpler car components. In this way the geometries are less invovled and thus require fewer operations in the manufacturing process. Many of the matching and interlocking shapes you mention can actually be simplified or at times, even eliminated, thus dramatically simplifying the production line and the cost of the individual components. No, you cannot butt join two pieces of metal, but neither can you do that on an airplane, no matter how you build it.

And you are right, the car chasis is a complex structure, but it is also one that is subject to myriads of more complex loading configurations than what we design for in an airplane. As such, the discovery of a dependable bonding process can only aid the streamlining of an airplane's production and assembly.

And to those that have guessed by now, no we have not completely eliminated rivets. Bonding has historically had one area of potential failure, that being peel. Although I am confident that the material we are looking to use will not be subject to that type of mechanism (peel is most commonly initiated through vibration and/or edge contamination), the possibility still exists so we are planning to use some "chicken" rivets in several areas so as to virtually eliminate any chance of a peel situation. Currently I estimate that the entire airplane will have in it maybe on the order of 30 rivets total. All will be 1/8" Monel with a stainless steel mandrel.
 

wally

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bonding

I used to work for Gulfstream Aerospace and if I am remembering correctly, a lot of the new GV horizontal stab and elevator is bonded construction. It is done by Fokker in Germany. They wanted smooth aerodynamic surfaces and light weight.

That was 4 years ago and sorry I don't have any access to details. It is probably done in an oven but again, I don't remember.

The planes I work on now DC-10, MD11, Airbus A310/A300-600 also use some bonded construction in various places. And yes I saw the other day a 1 foot square piece of aluminum peeled back on the underside of a DC-10 flap. It had come loose at a seam from vibration or a little impact right at the seam.

And Orion, really nice looking airplane!! Can't wait to see the prototype flying as I am sure you are too. Good luck.
Wally
 
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