Photo by Laurie
Jim Holcombe, Joe Walker, and Frank Tyson in front of the the
Dornier Seastar twin engine.
July 29, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s Dornier began to develop a new
seaplane concept: a truly modern take on some of its well-tested designs.
But it might have been a bit too early.
“This is an all-composite airplane,” says
Joe Walker, president of Dornier Seaplane Company. “It was ahead of its
time, and now with other [new technology] airplanes like the 787 coming on
line, it is the right time to bring it to the marketplace.”
Prior attempts to develop a market for the
large amphibious twin did not meet with much success, though all of that
effort occurred in Europe.
Last fall the aircraft here at EAA Air-
Venture Oshkosh 2009 flew from Germany to Dornier’s new North American
base in Punta Gorda, Florida. It carries factory serial number 2 and is
fully certified by both the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
According to Walker, 80 percent of all the
seaplanes in the world are based in North America. Judging from the 25
orders Walker says Dornier has for the plane, both the time and the place
may now have converged.
The Seastar bears a remarkable resemblance to
the 1926 Dornier Super Wal. The engines are mounted above the wing in the
same centerline push-pull arrangement, the wing is mounted above the
fuselage on struts, and sponsons attached to each side of the fuselage
provide stability on the water.
“This is a purpose-built seaplane,” Walker
says. “Most floatplanes are a good landplane with floats added to the
According to Walker features like the high
placement of the engines, the high wing, and fuel storage in the sponsons
make the plane a better choice for operations on water.
Storing fuel in the sponsons makes the
aircraft very stable on the water.
“I’ve landed this plane on 3-foot seas
without a problem,” Walker says.
Another key difference between the big twin
and typical water-landing-capable planes: a complete lack of bilge pumps.
The one-piece composite hull makes the Dornier
Dornier is targeting three different markets
for the $6 million craft: recreational owners (for those who can afford
it); commercial operators looking to replace World War II era twin-engine
seaplanes; and governments of nations with long coastlines.
All three markets are represented in the
current order backlog.
A cruise speed of 180 knots makes the craft
one of the fastest seaplanes available. And with cabin configurations
seating up to 12 passengers, the plane meets any number of mission
Walker describes the Seastar’s flight
characteristics as somewhere between a Cessna Caravan on floats and a
Beechcraft King Air 90.
First deliveries are scheduled for late 2011.
A manufacturing location has not been announced, though Walker indicates
an announcement is forthcoming.
The Seastar is on display in the Main Aircraft
Display area in Booth 445.