AAD: Vliegmasjien moves closer to Wolf first flight

Four years after unveiling its single-engine amphibious Wolf "bush plane" concept at AAD, South African company Vliegmasjien has returned with a prototype it hopes to fly next year, and looking for investors to help bring the design to production.

The five-year-old start-up - its name means "flying machine" in Afrikaans - is pitching the six-seater firmly at the African leisure market, and also, in a surveillance guise, at government agencies and NGOs. "We cannot compete with a Textron or [South African defence contractor] Paramount, so we are looking at a niche market," says designer Andre Labuschagne.

Customers might include private flyers who want to access hunting lodges in neighbouring countries; the aircraft's 16h endurance means it can travel much further than a Cessna 172, for instance, says Labuschagne. Its spacious cabin also makes it suitable for long surveillance missions, as one crew member can lie down and rest. Fitting a small lavatory to this variant is a possibility, he says.

Vliegmasjien makes great stock of the fact that the all-composite Wolf is almost entirely South African, including its mogas-powered Adept 320T engine, built by a Durban-based company, and fitted with a catalytic convertor.

While Labuschagne acknowledges that the Wolf's design, with its rear-facing piston engine, is sometimes likened to a 1940s-era Republic RC-3 Seebee, he says there are many differences, including its canard configuration, T-tail and a lower-mounted engine.

As an additional safety measure, the Wolf is fitted with a triple parachute system.

The aircraft will sell for around $500,000, with a higher-specification surveillance version coming in at around $1 million. Labuschagne says this price puts even a small fleet of aircraft within reach of budget-constrained African governments.

The company says it is gearing up for a production of between one and 10 aircraft a year, but this could be increased if an investor comes on board which wants to license the design. It plans to give the aircraft its US debut at the Oshkosh show next year.