Merlin PSA Offers A First: Gas Or Electric Power

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Wanna buy an airplane cheap? A company called Aeromarine LSA may have just what you're looking for in the form of the Merlin PSA, which debuted Wednesday at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring. The Merlin PSA -- for Personal Sport Airplane -- is a lightweight, single-seat aircraft powered by a Rotax 582 two-stroke engine. For now, it's an experimental amateur built kit but Chip Erwin, the company's principal, says it might be evolved into an LSA at some point, although he's not making any promises.

The real eye-opener is the Merlin's base price: $34,000 with just a basic panel. Add a Garmin GPS, a basic navcomm, ADS-B and even an autopilot and the price tops out closer to $50,000, still far below the average U.S. LSA price. The airplane can also be equipped with a BRS parachute recovery system, according to Erwin.

Although it hasn't flown yet, Erwin was also displaying in his booth an electrical power pack, complete with motor, batteries and prop. "This is a modern airframe with a cantilevered wing so it's got very low coefficient of drag and it needs very little horsepower," Erwin told AVweb on Wednesday. He said that makes it ideal for electric propulsion. The current pack, according to Erwin, would provide power sufficient for at least an hour of flight, but closer to two, given the airplane's light weight and low drag.

We take a closer look in this video.