Czecking Out The Czechs
One manufacturer attracting lots of attention on the exhibit line was the Czech Aircraft Works, or CZAW, a five-year-old company with American ownership, that builds American airplanes with American materials, but does it all in the Czech Republic with Czech workers. They were debuting the prototype of their first in-house design, a two-seat aluminum-hulled amphibian priced at $78,500 (for the first 50, at least) and designed expressly to conform to the FAA's potential Light Sport Aircraft rules. It first flew on March 11. Company president Chip Erwin was sitting in the airplane yesterday and growing hoarse from talking about it nonstop. "We should be ready to deliver by the end of this year," he told AVweb, and if the LSA rule isn't ready when they are, they'll deliver the airplane as an Experimental. "We have a seven-day build school," Erwin said. According to company representatives, graduates of the school can receive an FAA repairman certificate if they apply for one. The company told us the FAA just wants builders to learn ... but not necessarily to pop every rivet and turn every nut. The same build center has been manufacturing Zenair aircraft under license -- they've built more than 500 of them.
The exhibit also featured a tall sign spelling out the mission and philosophy of the company, such as: "We don't finance our product development with customer deposits." The first 20 delivery spots were held with $10 deposits -- though that has gone up to $500 now. "I don't even want the money," Erwin said. "I just want to sell those positions. ...You haven't seen us showing a mock-up year after year, or computer models, or any of that. Here we are introducing our design with a prototype that we've already built and already flown." A second prototype is in development by the company's "Frog Works" design team, incorporating some modifications learned from testing the first, including a larger rudder and a lighter canopy. That second copy is expected to be what they need for production. CZAW also manufactured airplanes under contract to OMF, and Erwin said he is already negotiating with the new owners in Germany to continue that relationship. The new amphibian, called the Lake Sport (CZAW is the European distributor for LanShe's Lake Renegade), has repositionable tricycle gear, removable wings, dual controls, five watertight compartments, a Rotax 912ULS (914 also available), and burns under five gallons of fuel per hour. Besides that, we think it's kinda cute.