Australian general aviation aircraft manufacturer Seabird Aviation Australia is probing the feasibility of developing a variant of its Seeker SB7L-360 observation aircraft for the joy-flight and tourism markets.

The Seeker is a fixed-wing two-seater powered by a Textron Lycoming 0-360 engine. It has a helicopter-style cockpit, a 880km (475nm) range and can fly at low altitude and slow speed. It was originally developed for low-level observation work such as law enforcement, border patrol and powerline inspection. A fire-spotting version, the FireSeeker, was launched last year.

The latest proposed variant, dubbed the Sight-Seer, would have a novel seating arrangement, says managing director Peter Adams. The two passengers would sit in the forward seats of the helicopter-like forward cabin, with the pilot positioned centrally aft.

Although there would be no external changes, there are considerable changes in the cabin, says Adams. The Seeker's central instrument console is removed and the dual controls replaced by a single set of controls, with a side stick behind the passenger seats.

The Hervey Bay, Queensland-based manufacturer aims to have a proof-of-concept Sight-Seer operational by the middle of this year. The first Sight-Seeker would be used for whale-watching over Hervey Bay, says Adams.

"The aim is to provide the passenger with a unique and memorable experience and adventure not available from other fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft," he adds.

The manufacturer believes there would be a global market for such a product, which would have operational costs far lower than for a helicopter.