Our Factory Visit With Flywhale Aircraft Germany
Factory Visit Report written by Jason J. Baker — On May 26th we followed an surprising invitation to visit Flywhale Aircraft in Dötlingen, just a few miles away from the Ganderkesee Airfair 2018 which we reported about. Both company founder Helmut Rind and his wife Elke casually invited us for coffee and cake to see the aircraft and talk seaplane flying. With only one seaplane at the fair, we jumped on the opportunity.
Flywhale is a Light Sport Amphibious Aircraft currently undergoing changes in design to comply with the new 650 Kilogram rules. The Rotax 912iS powered plane features an extremely light carbon fiber body and the aircraft’s sleek design appeals to buyers seeking a fun machine capable of leisurely cruising around between 85 – 105 knots while enjoying the versatility of a fully amphibious aircraft. Getting nearly 7 hours of endurance out of a plane like this promises day-trips not easily realized in something held together by rivets. The hull basically begs to be used as a seat or bench of fishing or just laying on, in the middle of a lake. Adventure and exploration pure…
An immediate attention- magnet was the handmade and customer designed cockpits and panels. We learned that each Flywhale is built by hand and comes with its own individually designed and handmade cockpit. Upon ordering a plane, the customer selects and arranges everything to their own liking. From a traditional six pack to a fully decked electronic display system from Dynon, everything is up to the customer. Seeing the finished cockpit shows the meticulous attention to detail that really doesn’t come through on a plug and play system.
According to Rind, its going to be a little while before we can fly the plane for a pilot report. “Every-time I start building a new one, someone is ready to take it off my hands and there goes my chance to have a fully decked demo aircraft for fly-in’s and events“ – Rind says as we walk towards the back of the production area where production number 9 is readying final assembly. The hint is clear, there will be a need to expand production facilities, before all too long.
The big wheels from Beringer are not just there for the optics. “Small wheels sink into soft surfaces when beaching or operating on wet turf,” Rind explains, “The Flywhale remains easily maneuverable by hand and under its own power with these bush type wheels”.
Helmut Rind who describes himself as an ultralight/ LSA pilot through and through, points out that it’s been the people who have been with him since the start in 2007 who made this all possible. One special character is Jan Kaminski, responsible for lots of the research and development, certification efforts and the guy who knows every tiny detail there is to know. “What you see here is passion and dedication on steroids and without the team, we wouldn’t be here today”.
Both Helmut and his wife strike us as extremely dedicated, but also humbled by the odyssey- like experience of having endured – at times – mind-bending bureaucracy and red-tape. Bringing an airplane to market requires substantial stamina and investments of both time and money, which these two people have mastered.
The plane is made of CFK which is a carbon fiber plastic that requires tempered curing at exactly kept temperatures. Looking into the fuselage reveals a construction that looks mighty sturdy, but also full of storage and gadget opportunities. “Its basically up to the customer, we’ll work on realizing individual solutions with each one of them” Rind promises.
Flywhale’s first serial production plane is D-MFWR (Nickname: “Willi”) pictured above belongs to Winfried Rall, currently Germany’s most experienced Flywhale pilot, instructor and examiner. We spoke with the 22.000 hour pilot and he loves the airplane. Having flown Serial # 003 for a bit over 80 hours since purchasing the plane, he points at the excellent slow flight characteristics and the very direct and honest handling of the plane. Great for training, but equally beautiful cruiser for long distance flying and adventure. “She goes slow and fast, and properly trimmed is a easy to fly, hands off machine, great for initial training and fun flying.” His Flugschule Otto Lilienthal is a legacy outfit where aviation passion lives every day.
How Long Until Its On Your Ramp?
One of the questions every manufacturer is being asked is how long the wait will be if one is ordered. Of course we asked! Rind tells us the next customer ordering will wait about 4 months before taking delivery. The aircraft is certified as Ultralight in Germany with a MTOW of 1135 lbs. (517.5 KG) and the planes empty weight clocks in at just 760 lbs. (345 kg).