With less than a handful of hours in seaplanes, I can’t truly evaluate the Sportsman. But after three perfect landings in the lake, I was amazed at how easy it was to fly. With the large amphibians hanging in the wind, the float version loses a lot of speed in cruise — it does about 110 knots at 8,000 feet. But the utility is fantastic. Ephraim told me that with a step-turn takeoff, the Sportsman can get out of a lake as short as 1,500 feet. The feeling of the aircraft popping out of the smooth water surface at about 50 knots was magnificent.
Two Weeks to Taxi?
Probably the greatest obstacle to owning a kit aircraft is the build process. According to the EAA, it takes between 1,000 and 3,000 hours — anywhere from one year to more than a decade to create an amateur-built aircraft. And it can be a scary prospect, particularly when parts break or get cut incorrectly.
Glasair has eliminated the fears and time factor associated with building a Sportsman. The two-weeks-to-taxi program is a remarkably well-executed concept. “It started in 2004 as an 18-day program for the airframe,” Ted said. “But we knew we could do more.” Glasair streamlined the process and, by the end of 2005, the two-weeks-to-taxi program was a reality.
Customers come in on a Monday morning, and by the following Friday they can taxi their aircraft away from the 25,000-square-foot Glasair hangar. The airplane is ready to fly, and as long as it has its final inspections completed with the required FAA signoff, it can. But how is this possible while maintaining the legal 51 percent requirements for amateur-built aircraft?
The answer is pure organization. Using the Japanese 5S methodology of workplace organization, the entire inventory at Glasair is clearly structured and labeled. So when an aircraft is ordered, it is easy to put together a kit to ship out or deliver to the adjacent two-weeks-to-taxi center. If there is a part missing or damaged, it takes minutes to pull a new piece out of the inventory with no interruption in the build process. There are many benefits to building an aircraft. As the customer, you know the airplane inside and out, and you’ll receive a repairman certificate specific to the serial number at the completion of the project. This repairman certificate allows you to perform regular maintenance, such as the annual inspection. Cost of ownership stays low, troubleshooting becomes easier, and the pride of ownership for an airplane you’ve built yourself is immeasurable.
That pride is evident in the employees at Glasair as well. Ephraim moved to Arlington from Alaska to be a part of the Glasair group, and he is building his own Glasair Super II FT. I was shocked to find out just how committed Ted is to the aircraft he designed. In his spare time at home, he is — you guessed it — building a Sportsman! After more than 30 years in the kit aircraft business, this is the first aircraft he’s building for himself.
Fly an IFR cross-country to visit family one weekend, go camping on a back-country strip the next, or go fly-fishing at a mountain lake. The options with this airplane are limited only by your imagination. And the foldable wings make it possible for you to share hangar rent with several friends. As long as they are Sportsman owners too.
Read more about the two-weeks-to-taxi program on the May iPad edition.