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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedTwin seaplane shows its heritage
By Randy Dufault, EAA AirVenture Today

Photo by Laurie Goossens
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 bottom.”

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 completely leak-proof.

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 challenges.

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.

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